What a week. What a day yesterday was.
Whilst the entire country was at political loggerheads over which party would be best for the future of the British people, Sunderland supporters were also dealing with the news that the most talented player in their squad, Aiden McGeady, had been informed by our increasingly-unpopular manager that he’s no longer needed. The 33-year old former Republic of Ireland winger has been given the green light to go and find himself a new club when the upcoming January transfer window opens.
And just like the conversations surrounding the general election that was taking place in constituencies right across the nation, people were split on the matter. On one side you had those who feel getting rid of a talented yet ultimately disruptive player will help the club to move forward, whilst on the other you have those who feel the club’s issues lay beyond constantly vilifying our best players and singling them out as supposed ‘troublemakers’.
I’m still not sure which side I’m on, personally - perhaps somewhere in the middle. I’ve loved watching Aiden McGeady throughout his time on Wearside, but it became obvious towards the end of last season and then throughout the entirety of the current one that the other players, and indeed the manager, have become overly-dependent on his ability and what he brings to the side. As the most obviously-talented player in the side there has been a tendency to rely upon him to supply Sunderland with goals - something that many feel has made the rest of the team and subsequently our performances suffer.
We’ll find out soon enough. McGeady missed Parkinson’s second game against Tranmere through suspension, and we won 5-0, so who knows? Maybe this will be a good thing. I won’t hold my breath, though. That would require us placing our faith in a manager who is convincing very few of us - a poll of almost 6000 supporters held by Roker Report this week concluded that around 96% of supporters want rid of Phil Parkinson.
Failure to win tomorrow makes him look like an even bigger fool. He’s unpopular, and the destruction of his wafer-thin reputation will surely worsen if Simon Grayson brings his side to Wearside and they roll over us comfortably, just like so many other average League One teams have since the former Bolton boss arrived to replace Jack Ross.
The fractured McGeady-Parkinson relationship wasn’t the only thing to happen of note yesterday, however, as in amongst the social media storm regarding Aiden’s situation was the official confirmation that Charlie Methven had stepped down from the club’s board. An issue that apparently has been rumbling on for many months now, the unpopular former Executive Director has left Sunderland in order to - from what we’re told officially - focus on his family life, with a baby on the way, and his career as a political advisor.
Methven’s standing with the Sunderland supporters has worsened significantly in recent months, and his repeated comments in relation to the fans of this great club did not help his reputation at all. Secret voice recordings of Charlie did the rounds on social media last week, as did rumours of a complicated meeting between Methven and the Red and White Army that subsequently led to the discussion having to be retaken with Stewart Donald present in his place.
In truth, it feels as though his departure was inevitable, and that his inability to speak in terms that the majority of supporters could relate to ultimately led to his downfall here. Like Tony Davison, the club’s former Managing Director, I suspect we’re not hearing the full truth about his reasons for walking away — perhaps all will become clearer in the future.
It’s no secret that - like the club’s other board members - Methven has other business interests, but of the most prominent people involved at the top of the club he was the most active in terms of fan engagement, media and PR.
I was told that when Charlie did come up to Sunderland that the atmosphere around Black Cats House and the Academy of Light was upbeat and proactive - people may not necessarily have liked him, but he was able to energise the workforce which in turn improved productivity. I wrote earlier this week about the lack of leadership and management at the club, and Charlie’s departure worries me in the sense that it appears nobody else is there taking on the work he performed on a day-to-day basis.
Who is actually running the club? It has often been asked over recent weeks. When Ellis Short was Sunderland’s owner we bemoaned the lack of action and clear planning, and yet two years on we find ourselves languishing in League One facing the exact same issues.
If Stewart Donald and Juan Sartori are not in a position to devote their time to the day-to-day running of this football club then they must surely employ people who can do it on their behalf. It feels suddenly like they are half-arsing the job here, and the fanbase cannot stand idly by as it happens - we made that mistake under Short, and look where that got us.
So I say this. Stewart - please, do everyone a favour and address this immediately.
We all want what is best for Sunderland and currently we’re cutting corners instead of tackling the issue head-on. Perhaps you should hire both a CEO and a Director of Football that can run this club properly, day-to-day.
If you aren’t prepared to employ seriously qualified and experienced people to run this club then you’re doing everyone a disservice - this is a massive football club that requires focus, strategic thinking and complete attention. Standards have dropped across the board, and that must be recognised - you simply cannot continue to risk this club’s future in this way.
I believe that we cannot let the issue drop - there’s clearly no philosophy, no forward-thinking, no coherent plan and no leadership. I genuinely believe that Donald - for all his flaws, and with his popularity waning - can still save this season, but time is running out. If he’s not prepared to do so then perhaps he really should sell up and let someone else do it.