The news this morning that Sunderland AFC had appointed David Jones and Tom Sloanes to their board (pending EFL ratification) as non-executive directors certainly feels like a small step in the right direction, particularly on the back of so much criticism aimed at the club regarding the structure off the field that has clearly been impacting what happens on it.
Quite what sort of impact Tom and Dave will be able to have is not yet clear, and I suppose that time will tell regarding whether either man can enact real positive change or have an influence on the way that things run, but as Sunderland supporters you’d hope that they’ll put personal relationships to one side and look to make decisive action for the good of the club.
Dave Jones was of course a director at Oxford United three years, and is known to Donald and the now-departed Charlie Methven as a result. It’s no secret that Jones and Methven didn’t see eye to eye during that spell at the Kassam Stadium, so it’s funny to see how the tables have turned, particularly now since Charlie has moved on from his role at the club.
Tom is someone I’ve got to know over the last few years and I can say without doubt that he’s one of the most passionate Sunderland supporters that I’ve ever met. Born and raised on Wearside, he’s the type of positive character that is perhaps needed behind the scenes - though I do hope that he’s able to be a critical friend of the owner, who we all know sometimes needs to be told the truth from the perspective of a Sunderland fan.
Putting aside any personal feelings on the matter, though, I still believe that irrespective of these appointments that it’s important that the club address the lack of leadership from within. Whilst it was important to put someone in the two empty seats vacated by Tony Davison and Charlie Methven, it still doesn’t distract from the fact that there are other key roles waiting to be filled.
The roles that Jones and Sloanes have taken are only part-time, and they like Stewart have other interests away from Sunderland - David in his role as the main presenter of Sky Sports’ football coverage, and Tom in his work all over Europe for the GVC Group.
It’d be unreasonable to expect either of them to be particularly ‘hands on’, which is why the next move should be in appointing a successor to Methven who is also based in the north-east and works from the club’s base at the Academy and Black Cats House every day.
Perhaps the appointments of Jones and Sloanes will now allow the club’s board to place pressure on the owner to appoint people in positions of power that will be directly involved with the day-to-day running of the club. I’d certainly hope so, as I know any Sunderland supporter in their position would be keen to address the gaping holes that SAFC has in its organisational and leadership structure.
Ultimately, there are other priorities right now that must be addressed. Frequent readers of Roker Report are probably bored with me saying this, but I strongly feel that the next move HAS to be in appointing at least a CEO to run the club on Donald’s behalf.
Better yet, appoint a CEO AND a Director of Football.
Getting our house in order is crucial to the path that the club takes going forward, and we can only hope that the new voices on the club’s board, with the best interests of Sunderland at heart, will do their level-best to use their influence for the good of the entire club - but time will tell.