It feels like the sun is coming out finally on Wearside. Isn’t it always so when there’s a change of ownership? Quinny’s magic carpet ride, Ellis’ billions, Madrox’s early PR wins. Each takeover has brought reasons for optimism.
Though it soon became apparent that things don’t always go to plan. Our Texan benefactor wouldn’t provide a bottomless pit of cash, and we were booted into the precipice. Meanwhile, the reason for Madrox’s charm offensive was because they knew that if their initial push for promotion failed, it would leave them in a rather tight spot. Which it did.
So welcome, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus. It is interesting he has chosen to buy Sunderland, despite saying he was “done” with football - many people would see us as a broken football club, given what it has endured over the last few years, so why Louis-Dreyfus has decided we are the one is intriguing.
What were the things which made him decide he was finished, and why is he confident those issues won’t rear their head here? Surely there are far more attractive options than to own a club where there are a thousand and one ways to get it wrong?
The good news is he has plenty of guidance on how to not run a football club. The God-awful decisions that have been made over the years wouldn’t just fill a book - it would be more of an anthology which spawned a Hollywood movie franchise, a successful video game series, and a theme park visitor attraction in Florida.
Then again, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Have a Plan B
As Connor Bromley said on the recent takeover episode of the Roker Rapport Podcast, Madrox arguably lost interest. Part of that is because there was no coherent plan B. Sadly, the solution they had in place was to bring in Phil Parkinson which really was akin to reversing back over the animal you’ve just hit just to make sure it is dead.
The strong rumours are that KLD had significant input into many of the decisions taken at the club these last couple of months; arguably therefore he is already accountable - let’s hope Johnson doesn’t make a hash of things Parky style, but if he does how quickly he acts and how he changes things will be very interesting.
In short, he must remain a hands-on owner.
Invest wisely in both the short and long term
The big test going into the summer will be investment. The removal of the salary cap is welcome, however the question over which league the club will be in means there must be solid plans for both.
The one thing fans do not want to see is footage of him shouting random numbers into his phone as a hapless head of recruitment puts his head in his hands. This isn’t a way to run a football club, especially when the result is Will Grigg.
Investment must be organic. Yes, we are all desperate to get back to the Championship and beyond, but this won’t happen unless decisions are taken with a long-term vision. The structure in place at the club must be clear, with the right people in the right positions; the scouting and recruitment network should operate like a greased hand in a glove.
Additionally, there must be a well-managed academy where players can be nurtured and grow; we must never again be in a position where we are losing players like Joe Hugill and Sam Greenwood in the manner we did.
Parents must see our academy as the place their children can develop, and our first team as the place they can make their mark, not elsewhere.
If something seems like the wrong decision, don’t do it
Allowing a man facing trial for child sex abuse to continue to play for the club. Giving Lee Cattermole a 5-year contract. Spending £18m on Didier NDong. General panic buying. Buying your mates from Everton. Breaking the League One transfer record for Will Grigg. Giving Roberto De Fanti control of recruitment. Replacing England’s #1 with Jason Steele, and Jermain Defoe with James Vaughan.
Sometimes, if something doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, then don’t do it.
Louis-Dreyfus must use his intuition. You cannot tell me that any of the above ever felt right? Not to worry everyone, I’ve plugged our goalscoring gap - Vaughany’s signed on the dotted line. Said no one, ever.
The club is in need of some TLC, but the gaping holes which have appeared over the last few seasons both on the pitch and behind the scenes have been a cause for alarm. The result is supporters are inherently nervous and pessimistic; and who can blame them? What has happened at this club lately to give any comfort good times are just around the corner?
Louis-Dreyfus must convince he is in this for the long term, and will run the club on a sensible financial footing, with investment in the first team and beyond. Rational decisions must be taken with absolute clarity, giving him the best chance of realising the long term plan he, I very much hope, has.
It was not the case with Madrox who were long eyed with suspicion, and latterly outright hostility. Meanwhile, Ellis Short melted into the background, and we all thought “it’s okay, Ellis will get his chequebook out”. Which was fine, until he didn’t, and we became what Newcastle United is to Mike Ashley - a low business priority.
Ultimately, we have in charge a 23-year-old who is going to have to demonstrate maturity beyond his years to bring success and sustain the trust of supporters. I wish him the best of luck - the one piece of advice I would give him is to always bear in mind that even in the difficult times, this is still a club which is capable of success.
Even so, when things start to go wrong, I’m sure he’ll hear about it.