I wanted it to work for Stewart Donald, I really did.
I think it’s easy to forget the state the club was in when he arrived.
He was an underdog, someone who wanted to take on the agents and the hangers on who had blighted our club for so long. He seemed to be a fighter, he took on Josh Maja and his “p*sstaking” agent. Yet that was one of many battles that he lost as Maja was sold. An unnecessary battle at that.
Donald then had his pants pulled down by Wigan, yes Wigan, as he invested desperately in a replacement for Maja. It felt like it was personal for him - that he was doing it for us, whatever IT was, it would never have been good business and the first seeds of doubt for me were sown.
Donald was clearly a football fan, and he was open, probably too open, with his communications. It all started so well for him here... or did it?
Despite the positiveness when he arrived there were cuts to costs and to staffing. At the time they were well and clearly explained - they were probably necessary. But then what? Where was the plan for the rebuild? Was there one?
Nothing happened - we weren’t progressing.
I don’t subscribe to the view that he lapped up the adulation. Through his openness and enthusiasm in those early days he created it - he was the antidote to the Byrne and Bain eras, but something had changed.
The messages became mixed. Methven said one thing, Donald another. The deal to buy the club was questioned and sort of answered, but not quite. Sartori would be back, but hasn’t been seen. The Americans were coming and the story was fed to the press, but the Americans arrived with a mere loan, and we felt let down.
What was true, what was untrue? We are living in a post truth world, but it began to feel like we were being told rubbish. It’s a football club that we live and breathe every day - spinning the truth would come to bite Donald on the arse over and over.
Jack Ross seemed like a man who could grow with the club. An intelligent man who could help rebuild the football structure. A new role was publicly promised to Kevin Ball, but nothing changed. People left; Ross was swamped by it all then sacked. The football structure remained a mere shell.
The sacking of Ross was debatable. The team weren’t developing as hoped. But who was recruiting the players? Was it Ross? Or was it others, those in the background - Hill and Coton? The budget seemed uncertain, it was certainly diminished, but Donald’s messaging hinted otherwise.
So, to replace Ross we needed a spark, a personality, an improvement. We didn’t get it. A two-and-a-half-year contract (let that sink in) was awarded to an out of work lower league journeyman manager who hadn’t been paid for five months in his former job. It felt like someone was taking the p*ss.
Bad decisions, contradictory messages, messy statements and broken promises. Not to mention bad business from an entrepreneur who we were told we should trust to get things right.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. The underdog Stewart Donald should have fit with Sunderland, battling the odds - fighting the system - he should have been a better fighter, but it seems he has turned out to be a bluffer.
Sunderland has a habit of eating you up and spitting you out. If you are a bullsh*tter, or not up for the fight, you are no good here. It’s such a shame that Donald wasn’t capable of rising to the challenge - it was fun for a while. But the time has come - time for him to go.