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Roker Roundtable: Is it purely results on the pitch that Stewart Donald must improve? (Part II)

After almost two years the confidence in Stewart Donald’s stewardship of Sunderland AFC is at an all time low - but is it merely results that need to be improved, or are other factors off the pitch equally as important?

Sunderland Press Conference - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Is it purely results on the pitch that Stewart Donald needs to improve to turn around his time as owner of Sunderland AFC?

Reece Davies says...

I just think the same old failings are still occurring at every level. The Academy retained their status, yet success and progression are still unapparent.

We’re selling off our youth assets at a time when we should be looking to invest in their future rather than cash in on short term gains. If wage caps are introduced in the coming season or so, then the club will have cashed in on the vast majority of their young assets who could have potentially made the step up.

Furthermore, we bleed money on poor recruitment by bringing in bodies for the sake of it rather than recruiting with any overt purpose - Declan John’s arrival at the club to not even make the squad is a prime example of this.

This all seemingly stems from mismanagement and a lack of footballing knowledge at board/top level of the club. Finances and budgets dictate but the club simply haven’t delivered success on the pitch.

Get the fundamentals right and results will improve, which will always ease pressure. But, if we couldn’t build on our first season at this level then optimism is in short supply.

Our recruitment and planning for next season has to improve. We have to build a squad to not only compete in this league, but to sit in the top two all season and find promotion. In my opinion, only that will save him. Bouncing between third and tenth, and sometimes lower, will not.

Sunderland Unveil New Manager Phil Parkinson Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

There is definitely more to it with respect to the ask on Mr Donald and his team, in my eyes.

He is clearly not a top two division owner in terms of football experience or indeed wealth, but he is a successful businessman, and I struggle to see why more of that hasn’t been used to take our club on an upward trend.

Yes, Sunderland fans are desperate for good results after multiple relegations and the heartaches of two failed trips to Wembley last season. What we want is promotion back to a league more aligned to the size of the club and its fan base, but in my view getting a sequence of results to improve our place in the table is just the tip of the iceberg of what the owner needs to.

As of April 22, the club installed a new CEO. We now need both the owner and the CEO to take the reigns and clarify our strategy moving forward. Despite Donald bringing a number of plus points to the club (arguably with a few minuses too), he has simply not dealt with the fundamental requirements that will help us find football’s “Yellow Brick Road”, directing us back to the “Oz” that is the top two tiers of English football.

We need to greatly improve and clarify the club’s vision, leadership alignment, accountability and culture. We need to align all our operational areas to the vision and culture, including our academy, recruitment and retention, fan experience, coaching and performance optimisation of the team, scouting, marketing and other aspects of the club. None of these things are ground breaking, but they are fundamental to success and in many ways are missing from our club, or are substandard in their implementation, so let’s walk before we try to run.

If the results are not ideal but Stewart can genuinely say he has reset our stall and put all these things in place, then the results arguably have a much better chance of improving over time.

Let’s get the results improved Stewart, but let’s also solidify the business foundations, that you know well, in place at our club. Only with strong foundations will the results improve and stay that way.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Gary Harrison says...

For a manager it is purely down to results to save their skin as far as fans are concerned. However, Charlie Methven’s words that ‘the p*** taking party is over’, still ring around the Stadium of Light like the boos and cheers of so many disappointments.

The fact is, after two eventful years, we appear no closer to the main objective: promotion back to the Championship. Donald and Methven have taken the behind-the-scenes finances seriously, and are said to have got the club onto a reasonable footing though some questions still remain on how level that truly is. However, what is clear is that under Donald’s lead there will be no great investment unless an outright buyer comes in.

That being said, on face value, even if Sunderland remain in League One for a third season, the club has a huge base to lay the foundations of a successful Championship side for a fraction of the cost at this level, which would then hopefully be in a position to challenge for promotion to the Premier League.

Sunderland is a big club in a small pond, floundering for genuine direction, real vision, leadership or identity - which includes recruitment going forward.

Recently, the more successful takeovers of clubs have built upon the history of the club, it is a lesson that Donald and co. would do well to learn.

New Sunderland Owner Stewart Donald Press Conference
“the p*ss taking party is over”
Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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