Sunderland AFC has suffered at the hands of mismanagement for well over a decade now, with the club falling from grace as an established Premier League club, plummeting at a rate that was seemingly interminable.
Personally, I feel this was a result of serious shortfall at board level from the previous regime. When Donald and co stepped in to the role as new owners, it was underwhelming and certainly seemed to fit the model that this club was lacking in ambition and vision in every aspect, except from that of the supporters’.
Readjustment under Donald was going to take time but the noises, actions and their dealings with monumental shortcomings such as player contracts, legal cases and club expenditure seemed to tick all the right boxes. I do not think Donald gets credit for some of the creditable business decisions made by him and his team to rectify the serious lack of a constructive plan under previous owners, executives and management teams, respectively.
Like every business though, you are judged by your performance in your chosen field and in Donald’s case, Sunderland’s performance on the field. This has been his Achilles heel and although there were some very high points in his first season, for many possible reasons, he fell at the final hurdle and this simply was not good enough.
From there on, it was downhill, an inauspicious start. Alas, another change of manager and another reminder of how the club just cannot find its groove on or off the pitch. For a club of the magnitude of Sunderland AFC, to sink to its lowest ever league position under his tenure regardless of improved results thereafter, is intolerable. It is evident that the owners are underqualified and under resourced to see the club take the steps it needs to get back to where it belongs and this breeds desperation.
This is where looking for investment becomes necessary but to use clubs assets as collateral in brokering these deals, albeit not unheard of, highlights that this owner is in over his head. That is the difference in calibre needed between non-league and League One, never mind beyond and unfortunately, the crux of it for Donald is that the size of the plus figure on your balance sheet over rules heart and desire. I have no doubt that living and breathing Sunderland AFC has caused Donald to fall in love with the club, area and the community but if the Netflix documentary highlighted anything, it is that your heart cannot always rule the head especially when the heart wants something beyond reach.
So where now? The resignation of Methven and Juan Sartori being non-existent leaves Donald a small fish in a very big and deep pond, trying to find a buyer for a club he does not want to sell. The wilderness that has dawned on football due to the covid-19 pandemic has seemingly not brought haste to proceedings and back up in the form of new Chief Executive Officer Jim Rodwell does not sit easy with a large number of Sunderland supporters.
When you come by claims from some Scunthorpe United fans that Rodwell was a non-entity and seemingly was not successful in achieving his aims for the Lincolnshire club, it only compounds the pessimism towards the current owner. Granted, judgement should be shelved until we see the fruits of his labour at Sunderland but again, this is a questionable appointment that does not inspire confidence. Especially when the owner, who when needed the most, to be the face of the club, instead decides to take a step back.
This great club deserves to be battling at the highest level not only domestically but in Europe, also. It has the infrastructure and fan base to make it so; it remains the same old adage that of a lack of clear vision and the current level of finance which is preventing it making the first step in the right direction.
How long Donald continues to talk to perspective buyers about the sale of the club remains unclear, however one thing that is certain, is that with the current plight of football and Sunderland’s league position paints an ever more likely reality that a third year in the third tier of English football will come to pass.
That fact alone is substance to fuel that Donald, and Madrox, need to act fast in securing the club’s sale before the loss of parachute payments and any potential wage caps apply pressure to his ever growing list of problems, whilst continuing to negatively impact what happens on the field.