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What should the new owners ambition for Sunderland look like?

“I expect that the word ambition will be raised over and over in interviews and statements. What will be his ambitions? Just as importantly what should they be?” asks David Holloway.

Germany v France - Semi Final: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

At this time of year people tend to reflect on what has been achieved over the last year and think about what their ambitions for the coming year might be. Ambition is a curious word in the context of thinking about a football club. It is a word that always seems to pop up in different contexts in football conversations.

Pundits, media and fans slam owners and managers for a lack of ambition, but what are they actually getting at? To my mind it just seems to be an easy shout against a poor set of results.

Did Ellis Short have serious ambitions for Sunderland when he spunked millions upon millions on a forlorn hope? Is Mike Ashley unambitious for running a tight ship and insisting that the club - which he owns - must live within its means and doesn’t rely on him for a handout every other year?

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil Parkinson was negative in his tactics and outlook but I didn’t doubt that his ambition was to secure promotion, he just had a joyless plan to try and get there. His style of management was unambitious but it had the aim of promotion, he just failed to reach that aim.

For some clubs their sole ambition is survival. This is particularly evident in the wake of a global pandemic which has left several clubs on the brink of financial meltdown. Many in the second tier and below of English football are in this position. Is their hope for survival rather than that of chasing a place in the promised land of the Premier League really a sign of being unambitious? Or is it reality?

Burnley were accused of lacking ambition in the summer as they didn’t spend. That’s right, unambitious Burnley - not splashing tens of millions on a gamble. Looks more like running to a plan to me.

There are also the multitude of examples displaying overambition in football. The collapse of Leeds United twenty years ago being a prime example. Clubs have chucked honours away due to an “overambitious style” of football. None of that makes sense to me. At the end of the day is it not just bad financial and football management? It is nothing to do with ambition. The ambition was always just that of achieving some success.

Rio Ferdinand, Peter Risdale
Leeds United’s overspending twenty years ago show results of overambition

Other than a brief statement on the club website and some quotes in the French Media, we don’t yet know much about Kyril Louis-Dreyfus or his plan, hopes and ambition for the club.

I expect that we will find out much more pretty soon after the takeover has been ratified. I also expect that word ambition will be raised over and over in interviews and statements. What will be his ambitions? Just as importantly what should they be?

He wouldn’t have got involved if all he wanted to achieve was the survival of an old football club on the North East coast of England. So, he must have ambitions in excess of that.

I would hope that his ambition is more than seeing an opportunity to make a profit. Buying football clubs and hoping to make money is a gamblers chance. Ask Ellis Short and Stewart Donald. Even Mike Ashley will be lucky to see a significant return on his investment and we know he can make money out of selling literally anything.

Should we hope that young Kyril has the same ambition for sporting achievement that the original Drumaville consortium had?

Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique de Marseille - Ligue 1
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus attending the Ligue 1 fixture between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille at Parc Des Princes on October 4, 2015
Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

They were never going to make money, they had some funds that they were willing to gamble - just for the fun and for the buzz of it. That was short termism at its best and at its very worst. Yes, it was great at the time but it was never going to last, their ambition for a magic carpet ride was built on sand and to a degree was illusionary.

We are in a different place now and the world is in a different economic state to that of the pre-financial crash Drumaville splurges. Now we need the new owner to have an ambitious plan to rebuild a sporting institution in his own way. Let’s hope that his ambition is to create a legacy that will live beyond him but which will still belong to him.

The early statements hint at such ambition, let’s hope it becomes a reality.

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