David Jones’ arrival at the club as a non-executive director brought with it a keen sense of intrigue. A Sunderland fan himself, Jones noted that:
I was honoured to accept Stewart Donald’s invitation to join the board. As a supporter of over 35 years, the club has always been close to my heart and I’ll do everything I can to help it get back to where it belongs - and the sooner the better.
Working behind the scenes, not a huge amount is known regarding Jones’ role at the club, but in a recent article published in FC Business, Jones gave some insight as to how is he is helping the club try and get back on track.
Talking about his role at the club, Jones went into some detail as to his involvement in recent months:
I arrived just before the January transfer window. Myself Phil [Parkinson] and Tony Coton, who is head of recruitment, got together quite quickly and asked what was needed, what would help and what is missing. Richard Hill, the club’s head of football operations, was also involved.
I certainly didn’t want to tread on people’s toes coming into role like this and was aware that people have been doing this as long-standing jobs and are very passionate about it. But I tried to have an impact in a positive way without treading on toes, just by asking questions. That can be a really powerful tool - why are we doing this, why are we not doing that?
Jones’ arrival at the club seemingly highlights a slightly different approach to recruitment strategy at the club.
In season two of Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die Stewart Donald was heavily involved in the transfer process; Jones’ interview doesn’t state that Donald is now far removed, but it does suggest that Donald may now be placing more faith in Jones to host a transfer committee of sorts - which will hopefully help the club’s overall recruitment strategy and process.
Furthermore, Jones also hints about Sunderland’s financial position in the article, noting the club are seemingly committed to finding talent that they consider to be good value for money, and that this is often difficult to accomplish due to the club’s considered status:
Richard is the guy that holds the purse strings and he’s the one that spreads the message that agents aren’t going to get an easy payday here. We had situations, even in January, where clubs in the Championship were expecting a level of money because it’s Sunderland, and we had to say no.
Sometimes you have to be firm and a manager might say they really want a player but we have to explain the reasons why he can’t have him.
Jones’ note about the club’s fiscal prudence is a positive message in that the club are actively trying to avoid the financial pitfalls that crippled us under the ownership of Ellis Short, but it also acts as a stark reminder as how far we’ve fallen.
Ultimately, the new approach to recruitment is based on financial best-practices, which is something the club have needed in quite some time.
The difficult task of undertaking that financial responsibility whilst also finding genuine quality that can help the club to be successful once again.
Jones went onto note that he thinks the club are moving in the right direction under Phil Parkinson and that the club have a squad of players that the fans can be proud of in terms of their passion and commitment:
It’s up to us to get the right characters so it doesn’t matter if they train from a shed in a field or this stunning complex. I have to say that the decisions that the manager has taken over the last four or five months, we’re at a place where we’ve got a squad that all the fans can be proud of. In terms of character, you cannot doubt that. You cannot doubt their commitment to the cause and that’s through the decisions made by the manager.
Jones also spent a sizeable chunk of the interview talking about his time working with Oxford United, something he notes stands him in good stead for his current role:
You look at Oxford now, they’ve got fantastic players that have been built up by a terrific recruitment system that was set up whilst I was at the football club. Not by me but I was part of that process and that is something that can be overlooked - that investment by football clubs at this level. Spend your money there and you can reap the rewards.
Here’s hoping that Jones’ appointment helps the club to “reap the rewards”.