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Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Play-Off: First Leg

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Opinion: “The end of an error!”

“The news that Donald & Methven have agreed on a deal to sell their interest in the club hopefully signals an end to their tenure at the Stadium of Light. But what if any legacy do they leave?” asks Jon Guy.

Has he finally Don it?
| Photo bt Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

All too often when an owner leaves a football club it is seen as the end of an era - but the culmination of Stewart Donald’s time at Sunderland may be best described as the end of an error.

Fired up by his ownership of non-league side Eastleigh, Donald believed it was the time to step up – and step up he did, swapping a non-league minnow for one of the biggest clubs in the country.

The group known as Madrox swept in, with 6% owner Charlie Methven announcing notably that “the piss-taking party ends now”.

What I didn’t realise was that, behind the scenes, it had only just begun - in my opinion, Donald and his salmon-trousered sidekick were hopelessly out of their depth.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the longer this saga went on the greater I understood that the new owners had gambled everything on an immediate return to the Championship, and a quick sale for a lot more than they had paid for it.

New Sunderland Owner Stewart Donald Press Conference
Donald and Methven arrived with plenty of talk, but little to back it up
Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Donald made his money as an insurance broker, and as such was all too well aware of an industry that is built on making a promise to pay and, when the time comes, uses every word in the contract to ensure they do no such thing.

The sale of Maja and the acquisition of Grigg were simply a window into their thinking.

In reality, without needing a great deal of hindsight, keeping Maja for the season would likely have seen promotion being achieved, and the financial gains of promotion would have offset the loss of his transfer fee, had he still decided to leave.

Very quickly, some of our most talented young academy prospects left to join clubs higher up the pyramid, and the fans’ ire began to grow.

The first season ended in Wembley heartbreak, the second was dire and, despite COVID deciding our final position, we knew we were in trouble.

Our owners were big on PR, but woeful in any substance or real investment.

Season three was a rollercoaster that ended in abject disappointment, but by then fans had grown impatient and had decided they needed to sell up and go.

Suddenly we had a new owner in Kyril Louis-Dreyfus - a billionaire that could take the club places, although he only holds a part share in the club currently, despite being our chairman.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg
Truly a new era?
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

A Wembley victory and promotion looks to have sparked a renewed effort to sell. We all know Donald said he would go if the fans didn’t want him, but that was two years ago, and the “will he won’t he” has continued ever since.

I have to hope that the deal agreed is with a buyer who has the funds to sustain a Championship side and has aspirations to take the club back to the Premier League.

I would genuinely like to believe Donald and Methven arrived with the dream of taking Sunderland to the very heights of the football pyramid, but the reality is they will be forever viewed by me as two chancers who saw their chance to make some money and took it.

Methven summed up where Sunderland will be when the deal is eventually done - “The piss-taking party” will finally end, and I can only hope the club will be in better hands.

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