Here we are in October, and the club finds itself at another crossroads in its bid to return to the higher echelons of the football pyramid. Actually, it feels more like a roundabout at the moment and this state of limbo is not good for the fans, the manager, the club. As we all wait for news of the proposed take-over the club is left in a state of inertia. It can’t be good in the long run, and the sooner the club moves on it will unquestionably be for the better.
Like him or loathe him, Jack Ross is left unsure of his future and that of his coaching staff. Despite assurances - albeit not given greater surety in the form of a club statement - Ross must be wondering if his position is secure. and while the sword of Damocles hangs potentially over his head he can’t possibly be mentally attuned to being able to focus one hundred per cent on the job in hand.
Jack Ross is as human as you and I and in such a position it would be only natural to worry about your family and domestic circumstances, and while he may dismiss those worries in the public domain it’s not so easy to do it privately.
This is where the weakness of the club infrastructure in not having a Chief Executive or Director of Football becomes much clearer. If there was a person in that position to oversee the day to day running of the club, and critically the football side, the pressure could be taken off the manager as there would be a conduit to address the concerns of not only him but the staff overall and the fans.
At the moment these concerns are addressed ad hoc by Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven through social media, off the record briefings and talk-ins, and inevitably the messages get twisted and convoluted and in the end they are doing more damage than good.
Rumour and counter-rumour become rife, fingers are pointed and accusations bandied about generally leading to more rumours and the vicious circle spirals downwards.
The manager, any manager, deserves some public vote of confidence if only for a degree of certainty, especially at a time when uncertainty is the norm. Of course if results were to deteriorate then his position undoubtedly becomes less secure, but while the club is in a relatively positive league position the pressure incumbent on him is greater to maintain that push. For a manager to float in this seeming vacuum it can’t be good for future planning and stability and this is a club that above all else needs both those things to progress.
Fans too are affected by the uncertainty. One only has to trawl through social media to ascertain how much the take-over concerns them. I think we all accept these things take time and patience is key, but once the genie is out of the bottle it’s not easy to get it back in and once news had broken of a potential change of ownership - bearing in mind everything the fans have been through over the past few years - the clamour for change is inevitable.
More-so when the potential incoming investors are billionaires, and whether they invest millions or not the uncertainty of even that side of things is unsettling for many. If it all goes through we will get answers I’m sure to those questions, but while fans wait and they receive mixed messages the atmosphere remains tangibly fragile.
Change can be a power for good - we’ve seen that already with the arrival of Stewart and Charlie, and potentially it will be good with the coming of the Americans, but for the time being we are all caught in what feels like an interminable treadmill of negativity and fractious argument, with the football lost in a debate about the competence of the manager and team.
The club can play its part in changing the mood and the mind-set, but for that it needs strong leadership and the manager, whoever it may be, needs someone who can take those pressures off their shoulders and offer them some protection from what can often be ill-informed, inaccurate and damaging assertions which are only dealt with in a weekly or bi-weekly press conference, a channel of communication which is flawed and largely dated as soon as its finished.
A club the size of Sunderland feeds a voracious appetite, and even with all its fan sites and local media it’s an appetite that is constant. It is a hungry, hungry beast and to that end it needs an effective and efficient communicator at its heart.