Now, bear with me on this one. First, I haven’t got the first clue about anything there is to know regarding architecture. I know if I like the look of a building, but that’s about as far as it goes.
So, until recently, I’d never heard of the ‘father of skyscrapers’ – some of you may have already heard of him – an American architect by the name of Louis Sullivan, who coined the phrase ‘form follows function’.
Up until his epiphany, building design was based on historical precedent, and after his ideas were widely accepted, building design was based around the function of a building. So, essentially how something is structured must depend on its purpose.
Fair enough, seems to make sense, and sounds simple, hence the concept spread into various different fields far and wide – although it doesn’t always happen.
To use Sunderland as a prime and completely relevant example, we go back to the heady fun filled summer of 2013. Roberto De Fanti, Sunderland’s Director of Football at the time, brought in 14 new players where only 5 had Premier League experience.
Most of us rejoiced in the re-building of an ageing, tired squad and looked forward to becoming Udinese Mark II. What we hadn’t realised was that De Fanti had clearly forgotten the function was to compete in the Premier League. As it turned out, Roberto De Fanti’s function was seemingly to reduce the salaries, overhaul the contract system and be incredibly lucky if we stayed up.
Anyway, organisations, including football clubs, require change when they need to achieve something different. Their Function changes, so a change in the structure inevitably should follow.
Now we find ourselves in League One with an aim of promotion at the first attempt - our function has well and truly shifted, and so our playing staff needs to change accordingly.
The result of all this is a huge re-structuring job, on an unprecedented scale for the club. The Sunderland squad come August 10th will be a very different squad to not only last season, but also different to what the fans have been used to for a very long time.
Gone, or in the process of going, are the big names left over from a ten year uninterrupted stay in the Premier League (something not achieved since our first relegation in 1957/58), which although being a huge positive, may also leave fans still expecting big names and decent money to be exchanged for those names.
A lot of the younger generation only know the club as an almost exclusively top-flight team - having only 3 seasons outside of the Premier League since 1999/2000 until our recent relegation just over a year ago. In a lot of respect this is great, but perhaps leads to greater expectation making our current predicament more difficult to accept.
In the four weeks since the Alim Ozturk signed on the 21st June, five more players have been added (Flanagan, Maguire, James, McGeouch, and McLaughlin). They aren’t big names for big money and aren’t maybe what some fans expect, but views from outside the club suggest these are good signings for our immediate aim.
I for one don’t know much about the players we’ve signed; however, I want to trust the club and the new owners to get the re-building work right, yet that isn’t an easy thing to do.
The owners have had just over eight weeks in charge of the club, taking all very welcome opportunities say their piece and be open with the fans. Perhaps now it’s our turn to give them at least a transfer window to follow through on providing the initial structure, both on and off the pitch, to achieve the success they have publicly stated they want to bring to the club.
Having a few weeks left until we open against Charlton Atheltic, and then a little bit longer until the transfer deadline, there is still time for a lot of business to be completed in a market that gets busier as the close of the window draws near.
With money seemingly available and coming in through outgoing transfers, it’s fair to expect a lot more business in both directions - especially with recent reports of the club being in competition with Championship clubs submitting substantial cash bids for players.
At possibly no other time during the football calendar are opinions greater in number than during transfer windows. They’re difficult, exciting, frustrating, joyous, painful and hopeful times for fans and the club. The new ownership have said they want promotion and we’ve backed them with buying season cards and helping replace seats at the Stadium of Light.
The squad on the morning of August 10th after the window closes will tell us what we’re going into the season with (until January) to achieve our goal of promotion, and it’s going to be a very different club to the one we had on May 17th when the window opened - that can only be a good thing.