The Kyril Louis-Dreyfus era at Sunderland AFC has been in place for just three months now – so it feels like a convenient moment to take a step back and to consider what the impact has been on the club in that short period of time.
We have been here before with new owners, of course.
We have all witnessed them enjoying a honeymoon period during which they can seemingly do no wrong. This comes from the hope that the new broom brings.
Who can forget the magic carpet that Drumaville laid out after the agony of the 15-point season?
Who could not get excited when billionaire Ellis Short splurged in the summer of 2008, or the whirlwind of positivity from Madrox in the very early days.
Unfortunately, none of the last three ownership groups were able to build the club to what it once was, or to what it could or should be.
None of them realised the need to put structures in place, structures that would create something lasting. Each ultimately ran the club day-to-day – on the hoof – on foundations that were built on sand.
One eye on the future
The most pleasing aspect of what we have seen at the start of this owner’s tenure is that he seems to recognise the fact that key management appointments must be made to enable success to be achieved in the longer term.
His statements all point to long term planning – that is in sharp contrast to the albeit enjoyable madness of Drumaville or to Short’s powerful dollar or what was ultimately the bluff, bluster and hack sawing of the club under Madrox.
It is early days but the start is more than encouraging.
Of course, perceptions are masked by the first teams recent good form – but underneath all of that the signs are good. Communication has improved, contract situations, which for years have been an afterthought or a reaction to events, appear to be being managed. The appointments at the academy seem – and we will have to wait and see – be designed to bring that great facility back to its past levels, and hopefully way beyond that.
Sometimes it is the small things which count, such as the first team flying to Portsmouth for an away game – we were rewarded with what for me, was the best performance of the season.
Under the previous owners would that flight have happened?
I think we know the answer to that.
The extra cameras at the home games make a huge difference to supporter experience.
It feels good that the whole club is coming together – including the SAFC ladies’ team. All of this converts Charlie Methven’s “One Club” marketing spin into a reality.
A bright and exciting future?
It is interesting to see the positivity that the season ticket renewal announcement has brought. Clearly recent results have impacted on that – many assume that a ticket renewal will lead to them witnessing Championship football next season.
That may be true, but it isn’t certain.
The price hike barely raised an eyebrow. Our tickets have been too cheap for too long, successive owners failing to maximise revenue as they were too embarrassed by their inadequate stewardship of the club.
A season ticket used to have a value, if you are unable to charge true value then what is it actually worth?
These owners have spelt it out – our tickets were too cheap and the price will rise.
Honesty is always the best policy.
It was brilliant to read earlier in the week that Quinn’s Bar has sold out and to hear that most of the boxes had been sold for next season.
Season ticket numbers – if social media comment can be used as a barometer – could be as high as they have been for years.
There is a desire and almost a desperation for all of us to enjoy ourselves after a year of Covid restrictions, but the club are now maximising this they are riding and fostering that enthusiasm.
The difficult bit, as previous owners will testify, is maintaining that feel-good factor in a fan base that has been battered and bruised for a decade.
As set out at the beginning of this, we have been here before.
These are the very early days and Louis-Dreyfus is enjoying his honeymoon period. There will be bumps along the way. But the changes, the structures and the seemingly long-term planning bring more than hope, they bring optimism for a brighter and exciting future.