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“I would do it for nothing” - New Sunderland director on working for the club & Stewart Donald

Speaking to Roker Report back in 2018, newly-appointed Sunderland director David Jones gave some insight into his past involvement with Oxford United, working for SAFC and his thoughts on our owner Stewart Donald.

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Sky Sports presenter and Sunderland fan David Jones was appointed the club’s board yesterday as a non-executive director.

Jones previously held the same role at Oxford United, during an appearance on the Roker Rapport podcast last year, he discussed what his role was at the Kassam Stadium and how involved he was in the running of the club.

From being personally involved in players sales that brought in over £7m to the club to lining up Craig Bellamy as the team’s next manager, Jones was heavily involved with the U’s before a takeover scuppered that move and led to him leaving the club:

I was advising on everything to do with how to run a football club.

For some of it I was qualified and for some of it I absolutely wasn’t but you pick up things along the way.

I was contributing in board meetings to various things, the board changed shape quite quickly in the time that I was there.

The first thing I was asked to do by the chairman was to talk to him about the manager.

I think I went in at February at the end and Michael Appleton was the manager, they were struggling.

He was trying to play football a certain way, the fans weren’t having it.

One of the things I spoke to Darryl Eales about was what happens if you go on a bad run as a football manager, do you change it? Do you stick with him? Do you find him better resources?

We were sort of aligned on the fact that you’ve got to support him, if he was the right guy in the first place, you’ve got to find ways to support him - as long as fundamentally you still believe in that person and Darryl did.

And for me, my first job was to remind him of all that stuff and to basically say ‘have we got enough to get through this season and kick on’? and that was the feeling.

So I got involved in recruitment, I got involved in selling players, I had a key role in sale of Kemar Roofe to Leeds, Callum O’Dowda to Bristol City, Marvin Johnson to Middlesbrough for a combined seven-and-a-half million quid I think.

I then got involved in recruitment, not for me to say that you should sign him or him because I know as much about football as the next guy in that sense but really to make sure they were going through the right processes.

Have you watched this guy enough?

What do you know about him?

What do the stats say about him?

Have you spoke to the people at the football club that he’s with?

And also just helping Michael the manager find the right balance in his squad. Challenge him because at times I didn’t feel like he was being challenged enough, I felt he was too powerful at the football club and I don’t think that’s healthy at any football club.

The only thing that changed - and I would probably still be at Oxford now if Darryl Eales was still there but he sold the club to a Thai group... - but eventually we were in the process of appointing a new manager because when Michael left we appointed Pep Clotet and I can speak for two or three hours as to why we ended up with Pep Clotet as our manager but I don’t suspect we have the time now but it didn’t work out for us and we were looking for a new manager.

We were well down the road to appointing Craig Bellamy, he was my selection and at the eleventh hour the takeover, which had been on the backburner for the best part of six months, went through and the new guy didn’t want Craig Bellamy, he started talking to me about Patrick Kluivert, about Robert Pires, others, people from Germany that I had to Google.

I just didn’t feel as if this was going in the right direction for me and I felt that if was going to work for a football club, I would need to be with a team of people who actually listened to what I said or or at least took some of my recommendations on board.

So I felt at that time that it was probably best if we parted ways, so I walked away.

We asked him whether he would consider taking up a similar role with Sunderland and he said he would jump at the chance, revealing that he would do the role for free:

Absolutely I would.

I would do it for nothing. It would give me no greater pleasure than to work for Sunderland and to feel like I was giving something back.

I’ve learnt lots of things in my time at Oxford, I had a disadvantage in the fact that I wasn’t an Oxford fan so people like, for example, Charlie Methven probably saw me as an outsider and wondered why I was getting to make decision about his football club that he wasn’t getting to make.

Now I am in a situation where I am seeing Oxford fans running Sunderland and I’m thinking ‘hang on a minute, have they got the club’s best interests at heart here, what’s their motivation, why are they taking Sunderland, what are they going to do with the football club and how long is this going to last?’.

But you learn actually when you’re in that situation, you live and breathe it, it takes over your life.

You’ve got Sunderland there and Oxford United there, with Oxford United I know all these players, I know their families, I know their wages, I know what their wages mean to them, I know how important their bonuses are, I know emotionally things about them that perhaps they don’t realise I do and I want nothing more than for these guys to be happy. To see the smiles around the faces at the football club, around the city.

In a way you become an uber fan when you’re in that situation as a director, so at that time if Sunderland were playing Oxford I wouldn’t hesitate to say I would want Oxford to win because Sunderland, for me, had drifted so far the wrong way with a bunch of people playing for them that I don’t think gave two hoots about the football club being run by people at the very top level by people who didn’t give two hoots about the football club.

So I see the guys now, people who have developed a passion for it and listening to Stewart Donald speak to you a couple of days ago, you can’t fail to be impressed by him. I think he’s a fantastic guy.

You can listen to the full interview with David Jones via the YouTube link below and don’t forget to subscribe via iTunes, Acast and Spotify to get the latest episodes of the Roker Rapport Podcast as soon as they are released.

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