A little over a year ago, Sky Sports’s David Jones was the guest on the Roker Rapport Podcast. It was a consummate, erudite and engaging appearance, with Jones opining on the then status of the club, the owners and the manager.
One of the points which stuck with me - and I haven’t gone back to re-listen to this, it just stuck in my memory - is this. When talking about the refreshing approach the new owners had to transparency, Jones said something along the lines of (and I paraphrase here) “It’s easy to be transparent and open when things are going well, but when the going gets tough, it might not be so easy.” Wise words indeed.
Since then, we have had a (possibly) premature dismissal of a manager, to be replaced by someone who has a record of two league wins, two draws and four losses. Added to that an ignominious exit in the first round of the FA Cup to Gillingham. The going has been tough.
We’ve also had the long-heralded ‘takeover’ by the four American billionaires, which now appears to be a mere investment of indeterminate proportions - though clearly we are not the next Manchester City of the transfer market.
One half of the public face of the owners, Charlie Methven, has left, citing the disgraced politician’s excuse, wanting to spend more time with his family - or in his case, start one.
Now Jones is installed on the board (along with Tom Sloanes), it is fair to say he knows exactly what he was letting himself in for. His experience on the board at Oxford will be good training, but having been a supporter since he sat in Alan Durban’s office as a boy, Jones will know more than most what is needed at Sunderland.
It’s difficult to know what to make of this season’s slump. The excitement at the new brooms has evaporated and the reality of mid-table obscurity in the third tier wasn’t exactly what any of us had in mind when we dropped to this level 18 months ago.
If promotion was expected last season, it’s an essential this season and it looks less likely than at this time last year.
Stewart Donald appears to lack the steel of a good owner. Happy to reach out to supporters in good times, happy to make early empty promises, but easily swayed into dubious decisions by a notoriously fickle supporter base.
That’s not having a go at our supporters, by the way. Fans of all clubs have the same spectrum of support. Being so available on Twitter was a naïve mistake. Not for the way it tore him this way and that, but the way he was dealing with the minutiae of fans’ problems himself. Staff it out, man! It was no surprise when he closed his account down.
The transparency has gone when it comes to finance. Questions about loans and new investment are not convincingly answered. The zeal seems to have gone.
We need a renewed passion and determination. We need genuine transparency. But not too much. Don’t undermine the manager by pronouncing on players on media outlets. Develop a clear and coherent plan, explain its thinking and put it into place. Simple isn’t it?