Q: If you could ask Sunderland AFC’s owners one thing, what would it be, and why?
Phil West says...
If I was to be able to put one single question to our owners, it would be: ‘Is there a concrete plan in place for the January transfer window, in order recruit the right players, and to avoid a last-minute Grigg-style panic signing?’.
Wigan, without wishing to lower the tone, had our trousers down when it came to the now ill-fated signing of Will Grigg. In January, Maja had left and taken his goals with him across the channel. We needed a striker, and fast. Grigg was proven at this level, and so we went for him. The fee was comparatively enormous, and he hasn’t come close to repaying it.
It was a mistake, without a doubt, and one that cannot afford to be repeated.
What we need in January is clarity, and a laser-like focus on strengthening in the right areas. Phil Parkinson, a man with a good knowledge of this league, will hopefully be given autonomy to sign the players he wants, and assuming we can shift some fringe and underperforming players, there will be some wriggle room on the financial front to strengthen for the second half of the season.
There can be no excuses for sub-standard recruitment this time. This will be the fourth transfer window for the current ownership, and the scattergun approach of windows past must be jettisoned, because our promotion push is dependant upon getting it absolutely right when the window swings open.
Craig Davies says...
So many questions to ask. For example, what’s the trophy we collect for best stadium speakers in League One, or which promotion do we receive for having the most proficient academy elevator in the division? Not a million miles away, my real chosen question is linked to the alleged investment/loan (depending how you interpret it) into club infrastructure.
Bearing in mind the ethereal nature of our relatively mysterious investors where do you see the club in five years time and what will our relationship with FFP look like?
I’d estimate a significant amount of our current, general malaise boils down to ownership, leadership and vision. How that operates and transpires in the next 6-12 months will have a huge bearing on the trajectory of this club and for me it’s crucial to know the long term strategy for this club of ours and what plans, goals and procedures we need to fulfil to achieve a return back to Premier League sustainability?
Who ultimately steers our ship is massively important for the general supporter, not to mention the honest-to-goodness employees of the club with mortgages to pay, the players anxious about contract negotiations and managers who require excellent working relationships with club owners in order to succeed.
Successful clubs require ownership with vision and inspiration - as well as bundles of excessive cash for sustainable investment. I know Donald spoke well and eloquently on BBC Newcastle a couple of evenings ago, claiming that FFP only invested because they were so impressed with his business plan for the club. That’s great! I’m pleased our American friends were so satisfied. But many of those specific plans are not known to us, the clubs stakeholders and other key investors.
I’m certain the Dell boys don’t loan or invest into sporting corporations just to feel the warm glow of satisfaction that fixing a roof or a few dodgy speakers can bring.
I enjoyed Donald’s interview in general and to some extent restored my faith in him, but I feel he was still flirting with us like a charismatic lover confusing us with crucial mixed signals. Oh Stewart, you big tease. Just tell us. We’re intelligent enough to cope with the truth and with complicated details.
So, perhaps it would ease a few troubled minds, calm some choppy supporter waters and provide a tangible vision for the whole club if we understood, with clarity, what the future of FFP’s involvement is going to look like, what that will mean for the nuts and bolts of the club, how it will fiscally sustain us in the long term?
Perpetual confusion over ownership and finance won’t help our push up the footballing pyramid, so further clarity is needed.