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Blunder after blunder, Sunderland’s owners are taking us backwards - I just want my club back

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When the divorce is final there’s one thing I want in the settlement - my club back.

New Sunderland Owner Stewart Donald Press Conference Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jim Rodwell’s first foray into corporate bullshittery went well didn’t it? The guy who looks like a cross between Russell Crowe’s love child and the fella from the Just For Men ad was forced to perform a swift and significant reverse ferret after attempting to perform the greatest act of grand larceny since Ronnie Biggs and his gang stopped that train.

The PR disaster named variously as card-gate, renewal-gate or give-us-out-money-back-you.. [redacted for legal reasons]-gate felt suspiciously like an opening salvo. A shot across the bows from Rodwell, Donald and Methven in what has quickly become an us-against-them mentality on both sides. So they’re probably thinking now the gloves are off, just how far they can push their luck with the fans.

The Q & A published last week - or Q and f*ck you - as it so clearly was, was not a gamble to try and recoup money - it was a power play in order to assert dominance. It wasn’t some sort of soft-soaped-mission-creep effort by Oxfordshire’s finest to make the profit they have so desired for so long, but a brazen move which shows contempt, disdain and an unforgivable disrespect at worst for the supporters of Sunderland AFC. Unfortunately for them they pushed it a little too far.

Tragically for us of a red and white persuasion, the wheels of nonsense refuse to stop turning now justice has (somewhat prevailed). The reason why? Well, Rodwell’s latest comments around contract renewals have made me feel less secure than a colonial-era statue. It all seems a little bit too much like we have been down this road before. We have, actually. We ploughed this depressing furrow last season. So prepare for sadness.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division Three - Macclesfield Town v Rushden & Diamonds Photo by Barrington Coombs/EMPICS via Getty Images

Rodwell’s quotes in the Echo made me suspect he must think we were all born yesterday. Let’s unpack what he said a little bit, shall we?

“The contracts are expiring and we will get serious about the conversations.”

Hold the phone, you’re not serious already? Has it all just been laddy contract banter up until now? Come on guys, it isn’t like it’s a surprise that contracts are up for renewal. You did negotiate most of them yourselves. Let’s take the example of Jon McLaughlin. He signed a two-year deal in 2017; discussions were being had less than halfway through his contract about extending it. Yet here the club is, as it has so often been before (Josh Maja, anyone?) sitting there all sad sack with their thumbs up their arses being all whats-going-on-here-guv?

As if they didn’t expect that McLaughlin, a man with a family to support, might want security. So off he’ll pop to Blackburn despite saying he wanted to stay. And don’t blame coronavirus, the uncertainty around what division we’ll be playing in or the fact that Gus Poyet played that weakened team against Hull - he will leave and it will be another example of a monumental balls-up by the club. Well done, all. Stay where you are Charlie, Sophie from STID will go and get you a beer; and don’t worry Stewart, the fans will pick up the tab. Let’s face it they’ve paid for most things round here, including your purchase of our club.

“We know we’ve got to build a squad better than anybody else in League One for next season, we should have that. The challenge is in how we do that.”

Well, letting McLaughlin leave for less than the price of a metro ticket from St Peters to Seaburn was a good start.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Aside from - or because of - the fact about half the division will be pondering the exact same conundrum, someone might want to inform Jim of the three, arguably four poor transfer windows that have pebbledashed our time in League One; and don’t forget this is a club that has been stuck in reverse for a number of years now, getting gradually worse as the seasons go by. A decent manager in charge might make a difference, but Phil Parkinson currently looks like a man who is trying to stop custard falling through his fingers so hopes should not be raised on the (in)ability of one man to build a squad capable of going up.

“Phil speaks to the players regularly and Richard Hill has been speaking to agents, just to flesh out what they think value looks like at the moment.”

A word of advice Jim - aside from the STID production team, Richard Hill was the only person in the world who had the chance to rip the phone out of Stewart Donald’s hands as he had his pants pulled down by Wigan over Will Grigg. The man might as well have said there with a large coke and family bag of revels watching the disaster unfold as he did f*ck all.

Also what he says is somewhat ambiguous; what is Richard actually doing, is he speaking to agents to see what THEY think value looks like at the moment? Not being funny Rich, but don’t ask them that. Since when did they have the best interests of a club at their heart? Based on this I’m half expecting to hear we’ve signed Ched Evans on 20k per week (as long as we, the fans, pay half).

It is however difficult to express the scale of relief I’m feeling to know the man who probably sleeps with Simon Grayson’s flip chart is talking to his players regularly. “Please stay Jon?” “No.” “Oh okay then.”

“But we’ve got to get it right and if they get a deal that they’re happy with elsewhere, there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Grimsby Town v Eastleigh FC - Vanarama Football Conference League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

That’s right, although a statement rendered utterly pointless considering the only thing you can do where McLaughlin is concerned is to give Dr Who a ring and time travel back to August 2019 when he should have been signing extended terms.

Ever since Donald and Methven walked through the door of this club, something has smelled bad. The whiff of Charlie’s unwashed sweaty chinos after an impromptu game of polo at Chequers perhaps? Or maybe it’s just the utter shit that has poured forth from the hole in Stewart’s face for far too long now? It’s probably both. The easy PR wins were just what they were - easy - but the judgement comes in results, recruitment, and relationships with fans. And guess what has happened?

What this all points to is a scenario that has played out in various forms before across the tenure of Madrox. The promise of jam tomorrow based on the sole fact that we are Sunderland and we play in a big stadium and were in the top flight for quite a while. In reality what we will get is a squad signed on a reduced budget that is slightly worse than this season, and owners who are not fit for purpose through the lack of financial clout, and the disgraceful game of smoke and mirrors that has been played out over the last 18-months or so.

The mask has slipped in its entirety, and I couldn’t be less pleased if it was Alan Shearer and Joey Barton staring back at me. Everybody sees now how utterly divorced these men are from our club and our city right? The major worry is that this is a story which has some way to run. Only one electrode has been attached to the slightly smaller testicle, and the current isn’t right at the max yet. As for the pliers, well they haven’t even been taken out of the box.

I have never been part of a bitter divorce but I imagine this is what it feels like; left with nothing but the inability to trust in anything that the other side says. Donald says he’s selling the club? Forgive me but there’s only one way to describe that - complete horse shit.

When the divorce is final there’s one thing I want in the settlement - my club back.