Charlie Methven did get one thing right. Invaders must die.
The confirmation of the PR man’s departure couldn’t have been any different from his bullish and brazen arrival, but his legacy at Sunderland will be one based on a line he gained infamy for, just not in the context he had hoped.
After an early morning statement, the announcement of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ true majority shareholding - and Methven’s subsequent departure - Sunderland AFC were very clear in their messaging: the departure of Methven just means that business carries on as usual.
Whilst questions still remain over Juan Sartori, KLD and his hires have been clear and concise in their messaging. We’re here for the long haul, we’re here for the right reasons, and whilst we’re here, we’ll be making decisions in the best interests of the club.
Fast forward a tumultuous few seasons, the football and success it brought left much to the imagination, and some of the comments and actions taken off of the pitch seemed even further from reality.
The moment the synonymous sound of Sunderland - Republica’s Ready To Go - blasted around the Stadium of Light in the play-off semi-final, it felt like a new era was upon us.
Invaders Must Die? The crowd voted with its lungs, die it must. A club reunited again. Fans together (but thankfully, not in that sense!) supporting each player through a nervy final twenty minutes. This felt like Sunderland again, with the fans really making a difference - the players and fans, the club whole, as one. The fabric that binds each supporter to one another, and inevitably back to the Stadium every other Saturday, regardless of fortunes, seemed intertwined in a way that has not been seen for a decade, something that many feared would never be seen again.
On that evening, the fabric of Sunderland AFC was remade.
Whilst Invaders Must Die was only a song choice, it robbed Sunderland of what little identity we as a club seemed to have left. After seasons of mercenary players, incompetent managers and off-field neglect, Sunderland wound up in League One as a shell. The fans remained, but not much else did. Methven joined making his promises, and on much he failed to deliver. The PR man found gimmicks and optics could not cover his shortcomings as a director of one of England’s best supported clubs.
There are still some that will snipe, there are still some that will believe promotion was luck, good fortune, or that all is still not what it seems, and it’s all destined to fail. Those people will be right, eventually, inevitably, because this is football, and even more so, this is Sunderland. But for now, right now, in this moment, the club is on the crest of a wave that shows no sign of breaking, especially with Methven gone and the club finally showing signs of an upward trajectory on the field.
Unfortunately though, through all this time, football is still not regulated - fans don’t get to decide who owns their football club. If Sunderland have had it terribly, there is not a word in the English dictionary to fairly describe the fortunes of Derby, Darlington or Bury.
When Donald and Methven arrived, Sunderland were a sinking ship - rudderless, and without a captain or crew. And after some hope of steering the ship in the right direction, selling assets to keep the club afloat made it seem that the ship’s destiny was sealed.
Without a change of captain nobody could be quite sure where the bottom was, but one thing was certain - under Methven and Donald, the club would find it.
Many fans, myself included, were swept up by the optimism the duo brought with them on their arrival. Partly because of the promises made, but in the main, it was nice to finally have an ownership group that understood what was important to the fanbase.
Alas, that was not to materialise in the way we had hoped. From calling fans parasites and making disruptive statements about Sunderland supporters not understanding business, to bizarre choices of walkout music that means nothing to the club or people, Methven - maybe unintentionally - sought to tear up the one consistently positive thing about Sunderland: the fans.
Whilst Sunderland supporters showed their commitment, passion and consistency in numbers, Methven showed himself to be nothing more than an invader - an invader of the club, an invader of the truth, an invader of the people, and an invader on the club’s proud history. An invader of the fanbase.
So finally, a sad chapter of Sunderland’s proud history comes to a close.
Whilst Methven may well claim his own successes, history will show his ownership oversaw Sunderland’s lowest-ever finish(es) in our history.
Sunderland will always have a constant, and that’s its heartbeat and its reason for existing: the fans. Yesterday’s statement draws a close to any potential external investors from dubious backgrounds looking to buy a ticket on the get rich quick scheme at Sunderland.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for other clubs, but if we, Sunderland, can teach the footballing world anything it’s that division and words will never bear fruit - only togetherness on and off the field will achieve success, and see hope return through the darkness.
Any threat to that has no place for a successful, harmonious club.
Simply put, invaders must die.