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OPINION: Double drop and wait for lift off - things are changing rapidly at Sunderland AFC

Being a Sunderland fan at the end of last season was dire. There was nothing to cling onto, there was no more hope; the intravenous drip had been ripped out after a defeat at home to Burton Albion as back-to-back relegations were confirmed.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
Sunderland fans with something to cheer about
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dead on our feet on the pitch and hunched over deathly in our faded pink seats. The club, after a decade-long game of misguided trial and error by the owner, had reached tipping point just as fans too had called off the search party for answers at the bottom of their pints.

For anyone under 35 — rock bottom.

That was until the 29th of April, when it was announced Chris Coleman had been sacked (the b*stards!) and 20 minutes later that Ellis Short had sold the club, writing off the debt for the new owner (ya little b*stards, ya!).

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

It was a one-two punch for club and supporters that shocked everyone back into a state of confusing hope - a confusion that could have sparked chaos and catastrophe if the new owner had not been a seemingly good fit. Thankfully for Sunderland so far, Stewart Donald might just be a great new owner.

The man from Eastleigh FC entered the fray with a knowledge of the game, respect in the game, and who had alongside him an adroit business partner in Charlie Methven. Together, they swept into the club at a ferocious pace, doing all the things Short never did and attempting to undo all of the awful actions he and his stooges oversaw.

Fronting up and speaking out directly to the fans, the duo’s appearance on our podcast was extraordinary. The frank conversation about the details of their purchase and ownership, the realities of what they have inherited and the foundations they will put in place to start their Sunderland AFC project their way, was genuinely exhilarating.

Maturer fans commented they hadn’t heard anything like it for forty-odd years. That new hope was starting to feel clearer and more real.

Stewart’s first words to Sunderland fans on the podcast couldn’t have been simpler or more powerful:

I just want to answer all their questions - why I’m doing what I’m doing.

An immediate antidote to the year-on-year shadowy shittery that had suffocated the pride and passion out anyone who loves Sunderland AFC.

This is a fresh, even enviable style of ownership - promising and delivering.

Fans were told the pink seats are getting replaced, the pink seats are being replaced. That players who don’t want to be here, won’t be here, and so the stink lines left by the likes of Rodwell, Khazri, Kone, Djilibodji, and so on, are slowly but surely wafting off and forever away.

In their place step ‘lesser’ talents with greater commitment. Gone are the days of signing young gambles and final pay-day jobbers from big name EPL clubs. The owners instead want value for money and high standards, and that is what transpires in the build-up to a first season in League One for Sunderland since 1987.

At the time, Stewart said there are two or three names ahead of Chris Coleman and there were, opting for the young and highly-rated St. Mirren manager Jack Ross. Ross arrived on the 25th of May, signing a two-year contract and has quietly gone about his business of weeding out the want-aways and gathering up those who will fight for the red and white cause.

Whisper it quietly, but everything by everyone in this new era is seemingly being done with accuracy, accountability, transparency, decency and respect.

And with the likes of Uruguayan, Juan Sartori, investing in the club in preparation for when the pendulum swings, Sunderland AFC are finally, proactively moving in the right direction. It’s a foresight and positivity, which has not been seen on Wearside since Bob Murray.

When Methven said, “The reputation of Sunderland in the game is that this is a place people have come to take the piss”, there was a collective sigh of relief from supporters that the rot would stop and the right people were here to restore a great club back to greatness.

The season ticket sales say it loudest - the love for the club is returning.

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