Supporters of Sunderland are eagerly awaiting the confirmation of the club’s change in ownership, excited about the endless possibilities that come with being bought by a group of insanely wealthy billionaires.
We know very little about the four men who are about to be officially announced as majority owners of Sunderland AFC other than their relative wealth and their successes as part of the MSD Capital group, with each man in their own right incredibly rich as a result of many years of prosperity in their professional business lives.
And that understandably has tongues wagging on Wearside. Does this mean we’re about to spend our way back to the top? With these men behind us, are we about to become the next Manchester City? Is this club finally about to realise its potential, perhaps eventually becoming one of the most successful teams in England?
Time will tell, but you can’t blame people for feeling giddy, especially since we’ve sat back and watched as our club plummeted dramatically from the top flight to the third tier in the space of two years. The descent has been dramatic, and further proof that nothing can surprise you when it comes to this football club.
Until these men get their feet under the table and start throwing their weight about it’s difficult for us to gauge exactly what path the club will take. It goes without saying that they’re buying into Sunderland because they’ve recognised the potential that it has.
At a relatively low price they’re getting involved with a football club that can genuinely go places, that is in ‘cracking financial shape’ (as Stewart Donald put it in his recent appearance on the Roker Rapport Podcast) and - all going well - should cost them a lot less to run than if they bought into an already-established top flight club like, say, Newcastle, where immediately there’d be an expectation to plough hundreds of millions into the playing budget, where there’s no guarantee of success and you’re one of many clubs who are simply spending to stay out of the relegation zone.
That said, there’ll be an expectancy from some supporters for the new men to flex their muscles when the January transfer window comes around.
Whilst traditionally League One clubs don’t spend a great deal of money to get out of this division, the likelihood is that once the new year rolls around we’ll be well aware of where this squad needs to be strengthened and be hoping we’ll spend sensibly in order to buy quality players that have the ability to play at the level above.
It’s important we look beyond that too, though. Naturally the first thing we look at is the worth of the men who own the club, but their business acumen should give us plenty to feel excited about as well.
With the greatest respect to Stewart Donald, these fellas are on another level when it comes to their professional résumés and we can expect that the demand for success right across the board should intensify once they get a full handle on how the club is being ran.
Personally, as a fan, I expect that every single area of the club should look to be the very best it can be. If we’re underperforming then we should demand more. Questions should be asked if we’re not meeting expectations.
Michael Dell, John Phelan, Glen Fuhrman and Rob Platek are serious players; elite-level businessmen who have a proven record of success professionally. It’s safe for us to assume that the standards they expect in their other ventures will be set in place at Sunderland, and if we demand the best from every area of this club, not just on the pitch, then it can only lead to us being as good as we possibly can be from top to bottom.
In the recent past there has been an acceptance of failure at Sunderland, and if we can learn one thing from that it’s that this club can never allow itself to fall into a spiral of mediocrity and depression ever again. Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven have done a good job of sorting the club out off the pitch, cutting costs and making tough decisions, and that leaves us in a fantastic position under these new owners to become even better; to aspire to be more, and to add people in positions of power who are born winners.
There will be no room for passengers. If you aren’t performing to the best of your abilities then you shouldn’t be here, because going forward Sunderland should be seen as the measuring stick for success.
If we don’t aspire to be the very best that we can be then we’ll only leave ourselves open to repeating the mistakes of the past that saw us end up in the third tier in the first place.
The financial benefits of being owned by wealthy people is undoubtedly salivating, but the potential that the club has to grow under the leadership of some of the most successful businessmen now in the game has me more hopeful that Sunderland’s future will be one of immense success.