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Academy, recruitment and management structures to be invested in by Sunderland management

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Sunderland’s ownership have discussed areas of investment after the club received a multi-million pound injection of cash - and it looks like long-term planning is the focus of their attention.

Aerial view of the River Wear and Stadium of Light, home ground of Sunderland AFC. Photograph by David Goddard/Getty Images

In a fascinating article published in the Sunderland Echo, executive director Charlie Methven spoke at length about where the new investment from the FPP Group will be utilised.

Of course, some could well be spent during the upcoming January transfer window, but after analysing Methven’s words it feels like this cash injection is to be largely used to help plan for long-term improvement in the club’s scouting and academy systems.

Speaking about the financial impetus, Methven spoke about the need to plan ahead of time, of a need to be proactive rather than reactive:

If you go up to the Championship it’s not suddenly about throwing money at players. What you need is an embedded structure. There is no point doing it once you have achieved promotion, you need to be already looking and identifying players now and that’s why we will be putting these structures in place with the new investment.

That is the same with bringing talented players into the academy, one to help your first team and two to potentially sell on, as there’s a significant demand for these players.

At some point, will there also be a need to potentially spend a bit more? Probably, but it’s not either or and you will need to spend less if you put effective structures in place.

Sunderland v Bradford City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Recently, fans have started to discuss Sunderland’s future planning.

Stewart Donald and Methven noted early in their tenure that they were fans of Dortmund’s model of investing in young, talented players keen to find their feet in a side constantly looking to improve and challenge.

It has likely been tough for the club to fully embrace that notion as the ownership has sought to streamline the club’s business side. However, now that the club’s coffers have received a welcome boost, it seems as though now is the time for the club to prepare for the future by investing in our scouting network, its geographic presence, and also our academy:

There’s a large scouting network now being put in place by Tony Coton, including substantial numbers of scouts in this country, Scandanavia and elsewhere. There’s going to be substantial investment into recruitment in the academy, and things that are hopefully going to be able to take the fan experience to the next level in terms of infrastructure and there’ll be an announcement in the near future on what that looks like.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

And finally, it was also worth noting that Methven hinted that the club could well be close to rearranging its internal structure.

Aside from the recruitment team and investment in the academy, Methven did suggest that perhaps the club might be interested in appointing a Director of Football:

In terms of senior management, we’re assessing the structure. There’s Stewart and I who are heavily involved on a part-time basis, along with Neil Fox, and then Tony and Richard who are in full-time roles.

We want to put in place the changes that we think are the right ones to make, and to start seeing how they play through and where the holes then are. The holes now are obvious to us. There’s a hole in the numbers and expertise on the recruitment side. That’s clear, as is a need for investment in the academy to incentivise our young players to stick around because they can see we’re going places, as well as bringing in good young players from elsewhere.

I’m sceptical about Chief Executives in football, because the job that gets done on the non-football side of the club bares no resemblance in skillset to the football side. It implies that someone is as at home at devising commercial and marketing strategies as they are directing transfer business.

I don’t buy it and most top clubs don’t operate that way.

The majority who are really succeeding have a managing director-type who looks after the commercial side, and a director of football-type who looks after the football side.

It will be fascinating to see how the management team evolves now that additional funds have been injected into the club.

A forward-thinking director of football would be a real positive addition to the club as we try to create our own unique identity that allows the club to become self-sustainable in terms of personnel and finances.