Amongst the furore that surrounded the hasty departure of Alex Neil, there was a glimmer of humour as someone pointed out that we were probably the first club to lose a manager to the energy price cap.
The suggestion was that his departure to Stoke was fuelled (pun fully intended) by the need to make sure the Neil household could still afford to pay their gas and ‘leccy bills.
Behind that typically Sunderland attempt to see the funny side of a dispiriting couple of days lies a darker truth, one that will impact on the club in the coming months.
Sunderland AFC is a business like any other, with running costs it has to meet in order to continue to function. I don’t know what the energy costs are for the stadium and the academy but they must be substantial.
Unlike domestic consumers who are facing terrifying enough increases in their gas and electricity costs, there is no price cap for business users. Unless there is a substantial change in Government policy, this winter and next spring will see many commercial operations facing extreme challenges.
There are examples of small businesses such as fish and chip shops, takeaways and restaurants facing huge hikes in their energy bills. Figures of annual charges increasing five fold from £12,000 to over £60,000 have been quoted. Some of those businesses will undoubtedly cease to exist, throwing their employees out of work, at a time when they are facing unimaginable difficulties in heating their homes, and feeding their families.
Sunderland AFC are going to have to absorb the same magnitude of costs, bills which could not have been foreseen or budgeted for.
There is also little doubt that the club’s income is going to be negatively affected. Around 20% of our recent bumper crowds are non-season ticket holders. As the heating bills hit, at the same time as soaring inflation in the price of food and other necessities, football will become unaffordable for some.
Against that backdrop, club revenue is likely to fall - the need for resilience and self-sufficiency has never been greater.
The appointment of Tony Mowbray is the logical decision in the face of the challenges that SAFC now face. An exciting appointment? No. An inspirational figure around which a promotion challenge can be built? Probably not.
But it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are a club that has spent the last 4 years in League One. For those who want the club to rise straight through this league, and back to the Premier League, it is an appointment that lacks ambition. It is, however, an appointment which should consolidate our position as a Championship club once again.
Tony Mowbray offers far more than that, though. His record at Blackburn may not be hugely inspiring, at first glance. Look deeper, however, and it is clear that he is trusted by the likes of Liverpool, and other Premier League sides, to develop their younger players.
One of our most desired targets, Jan Paul van Hecke, became Blackburn’s Player of the Season under Mowbray.
With a crop of promising youngsters already at the club, and several more potential young signings apparently imminent, perhaps we have stumbled upon a coach who is capable of bringing the best out of the young guns the club has staked its future on.
The coming months are going to be very difficult - for the club, and for fans. A coach who clearly understands the importance that Sunderland AFC plays in the community, and who has the experience to bring out the potential in our youthful squad, may just be the right man at the right time in the right place.