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Charlie Methven & Stewart Donald’s Sunderland PR machine has slowed down, but is it necessary?

“The Sunderland marketing machine has been quiet lately. Maybe this is necessary, and a deliberate tactic” writes David Holloway.

PA Images via Getty Images

Rewind the clock back twelve months or so and the new owners, Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven arrived in Sunderland. Energy was immediately injected into the club as they demanded that fans believe in their new philosophy -the ‘One Club’ philosophy.

A new manager was appointed, a dozen new players were signed and new red seats were installed. Everything was new - it felt like a totally new club. We eagerly awaited the owners appearing on podcasts and we hung on their every word as they described the mess which they had inherited and set out their exciting plans for the future.

We read and heard press and national radio interviews, and eagerly anticipated every tweet from Stewart Donald. This freshness and the openness were welcomed by a reinvigorated fan base, such an open approach unseen since the early days of Niall Quinn’s time as Chairman.

Charlie Methven - the one man PR machine - challenged us all to support the club. As the season progressed this PR effort at times diverted attention from the performances on the field. Everyone was talking about Charlie and Stewart, less about the football team.

Attendance targets were set by Charlie. Brilliant stuff - a fresh new approach that the fans responded to. The team were doing well enough, but it wasn’t brilliant either.

Sunderland v Bradford City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The marketing machine reached its peak around the time of the Checkatrade Trophy final. There was a huge push by the club to gain media attention from being in a Wembley final, and there was a relentless push to market that occasion.

The ‘One Club’ philosophy project felt like it was completed that weekend when it seemed that the entire Sunderland fan base descended into London and had a party - we were as one, completely together as one club.

Was that the peak of this new energetic approach? Was it all too exhausting as the season petered out? Was the attention on off field developments a distraction from what is the most important thing for a football club - that of winning football matches?

This not to criticise the magnificent effort to bring energy back to the Stadium of Light. It was brilliant and completely necessary. Everything was new but how much longer can something be new? The push could only last for so long before it became self-defeating.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

It is notable that there has been a distinct slowdown in the marketing effort this pre-season. Perhaps this is a good thing - perhaps this is a relief to the football side of the club.

Jack Ross has said he wants a smaller squad; a more reliable, younger, fitter, tighter pool of players to pick from, one that quietly gets on with winning football matches.

If the attention and energy is shown on the field then there won’t be any need for an injection of energy into the fanbase from the PR side. The football team is the most important team and if and when the results and hopefully promotion come, ticket sales won’t need any help - the togetherness that Methven was looking for in his ‘One Club’ blueprint will most certainly look after itself.

After the way last season ended, a period of peace which allows the football team to focus and develop a quiet determination to succeed is what is required, and what I believe we are seeing now.

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