With only a few weeks to go until our second season of Championship football is upon us, I am now longing for Saturday afternoons following the Lads again.
I’ve been impressed with how we have developed as a team over the past two seasons and the recent Hume and Ekwah POV videos on the club’s socials demonstrate the camaraderie there is in our camp currently.
Looking back to last year I felt nervous about our chances in the division. I was dreaming of a season of consolidation in the league but with my realistic hat on I was hoping to steer clear of a relegation dogfight.
What ensued was an Amad-inspired magic carpet ride that left us all a little shellshocked and extremely enthused about the direction of the club, especially with its youthful look.
One comment that stuck with me over the playoff games was how commentators continually used the term ‘sleeping giant’ when referring to us.
I would argue that the club has been awoken under KLD’s stewardship but there is still some way to go to realise our full potential as a club.
We were at our lowest in League One, both in terms of the way were run by Donald and the players we were accumulating. The new regime has worked hard to sort the on-field issues out and there is a clear vision and plan.
However, the off-field issues are a cause for significant concern.
For instance, not having enough merchandise readily available at this stage in pre-season is genuinely laughable. These issues, as well as various others, will require sorting if we are to be ready to be run as a modern-day sustainable football club that engages its community and fans around the world.
This regime has recruited well, and our current crop of players have worked hard to create a connection between fans. In that sense, the giant has been woken.
In a business sense then, we are still in a coma with no sign of life! From the running of the club shop to shirt sales and to season tickets, to be frank… it's been a complete and utter disaster. Gav and Chris have touched on these issues in the latest podcast and I want to echo their stance.
Why isn’t the club shop well stocked with a variety of merchandise? Why are the club moving to ticketless matchdays with very little communication with fans? And why can no one get in contact with anyone at the club regarding these issues? It's infuriating.
As a case in point, I tried to get my 1-year-old boy an official replica shirt last year. It cost me a fortune to order for a kit that was poor in quality. I sent it back and was charged for the right to do so. I ended up spending £25 to receive and send back an item that was too poor in quality to keep. When I complained, no one got back to me.
By talking to others it seems this is not an isolated incident.
Listening back to the podcast RR did with Clive Tyldsley it was interesting to hear his take around what role RR play in issues like this. The job of fanzines in general is to offer fans a balanced opinion of the club and its role in the community. It should give honest opinions of how the club is run to strengthen communication and play a significant role in building trust with the club and fans.
It is important we question this aspect of how the club is run. There is a feel-good factor around the playing side of things and rightly so. This now needs to be mirrored by the business decisions and the club's communication to fans.
One of the greatest things about SAFC is that there is a strong community. I am from London and have never lived in the north east, but I feel part of the community of fans. At games and online there is a warmth and togetherness of fans. Things off the pitch have been bad for some time and hopefully bringing this conversation to the top of the agenda for a while can affect some change at the club.
The progress we’ve made on the pitch will be aired soon on the Netflix documentary. Not being able to seize on this opportunity through having shirts and merchandise readily available to sell would be a significant business error. In this regard, it’s important that the people making decisions at the club are held to account.
If the club doesn’t sort these issues out soon it could become a hindrance to welcoming new fans to the club and damage the work that has been done by the playing staff to strengthen the bond between the club and the fans.
I applaud all the work KLD and his team have done in sorting issues out with our playing staff - now get the rest of the house in order, please!