7 key things we learned about Sunderland's future from Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven

It was a whirlwind day as Stewart Donald completed his takeover of Sunderland and almost immediately spoke to fans and the media.

Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 12:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd May 2018, 12:46 pm

Here's seven key things we learned about the club's future

Stewart Donald is the main man

Sunderland's new owners, Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald

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Donald spoke very openly about the deal he has struck with Ellis Short and essentially admitted that there is no longer an 'international consortium'.

To push the deal through and get to work on the massive task ahead, Donald stepped forward to take on the responsibility himself and as such, he is control from a financial and footballing perspective.

That offers much needed clarity and in the short-term at least, accountability.

Clearly, it raises some concerns and while Donald believes he has the finances to power a run to the Premier League, he was honest enough to admit that he does not have the same kind of financial might that Ellis Short had.

Key to his message, however, was that the vast wastage of that era had been central to the current disconnect at the club.

Correcting that is the single biggest priority in the coming years.

The new owners could not have been any clearer: Sunderland is no longer a Premier League club and that will affect spending. They hope that they can do something exciting even without that, and partly because of it.

But Spanish investment could be in the offing

It had been believed that Spanish backing was prominent in the initial discussions about a deal and Donald confirmed that was largely true.

He said: "One of the guys is Spanish that I would look to … well, he’s not Spanish, but he lives … he’s got a Spanish connection, so I suppose that’s where that comes from. You know what it’s like in this scenario.

"I went over to the hotel last night and the last eight people who have stayed there that are foreign are apparently investing, you know. The rumours just come. But they are international businessmen who would like to get involved. It was just quickest and slickest to get through as it is now.

"There’s no issue with that if it stays like that, but potentially one or two of these people could be good for the football club."

It offers a certain level of clarity for Sunderland supporters.

If Donald and Methven get the house in order, then there is the scope for greater financial ambition.

Before then, much work has to be done.

Charlie Methven wants to change Sunderland's 'culture'

Monday offered the first opportunity for Sunderland supporters to hear from Charlie Methven.

Methven confirmed that he had been a central figure in the deal, having known Ellis Short for a significant period of time.

He is set to become a director at the the club and while he admitted that he does not yet know what his title will be, it is clear that he will central to the attempts to change the culture of failure at the club.

That is a tall order and something that many before him have tried, but he believes his experiences at Oxford United as they fought their way through the lower leagues can help him succeed.

This will be a far bigger challenge, as he knows, and it is worth remembering just how shocked Chris Coleman was by the attitude and difficulties he faced with many players at the club.

It will not be straightforward to turn things around and shift players on but Methven and Donald certainly spoke well.

Whether they can back that up will be crucial to their success.

Sunderland face a fight to land top managerial target

In one of the more eye-catching moments of the press conference, Stewart Donald floated the rather sensational prospect of re-appointing Chris Coleman.

At the same time, he made quite clear that the former Sunderland boss was not one of his preferred candidates for the role and so we can surmise with some confidence that he will not be the next manager.

Having been relieved of his duties three weeks ago, he is unlikely to come back having being publicly confirmed as second choice at the very least.

What we can say with some certainty is that with Chris Wilder set to stay at Sheffield United, Donald has two preferred candidates for the role, with a number of others also in the reckoning.

Jack Ross and Paul Hurst feature prominently.

Ross, for example, is weighing up a new deal from St Mirren and is Ipswich Town's primary candidate to replace Mick McCarthy.

Before the week's end, Hurst could have taken Shrewsbury Town into the Championship.

There will be stiff competition for both. Donald said he had a top target in mind but admitted he could not be overly confident about getting a deal over the line.

He does, however, want an appointment secured in the next week.

Whoever it is will be given a lot of power

That appointment will be crucial with Donald making clear that the new manager will be in firm control of footballing affairs at the club.

Donald said that while lower league success was preferential, his main priority was finding a candidate who could change the culture at the club and set the highest possible standards.

A key part of that will be recruitment, with the new boss likely to drive that process.

On the search, Donald said: "It needs a cultural change, the standards have got to be really high. when you go round the academy of light and I’ve gone in there. if you’re a young footballer, or any kind of footballer and you wander in there as a League One footballer, we’ve got to make sure people don’t think they’ve arrived and all their hard work is done.

"The standards that the football club should set, should be absolutely top drawer, it should be 100 per cent effort. They’ve got to get the culture, they’ve got to work hard, they’ve got to do everything right, and the manager has to set the tone for that. He cannot be somebody that will let them off with anything.

"If we want to win anything, especially now in League One, this will be the place where everybody, as soon as the fixtures are drawn out, when are we playing Sunderland. They will come up here and when we go there, it will be a big game.

"You are going to have to be strong and if you are going to be that, the manager has to set the tone so I am expecting to bring someone in who sets the standard right at the top and then make sure that the players understand what is expected of them, and get the right type of characters here."

Both Donald and Methven came across well but it cannot be understated how important it is that they land the right manager to lead the process.

Academy is a central part of their vision

With sizeable spending a thing of the part, the new regime were keen to stress that the academy will be crucial to success on the pitch.

First and foremost, they believe that producing local talent will help change the culture at the club, securing players who are desperate to play for Sunderland because of the size of the club, rather than the financial benefit.

However, they also see it as a key way of closing the competitive gap to clubs with greater revenue streams and spending power.

Sunderland have a strong catchment area where football is a way of life, and it makes sense to try and capitalise on that.

Fan engagement will be key

Donald and Methven were eager to stress that having being part of supporters groups themselves, they are determined to ensure that fan engagement is central to what they do at the club.

Methven spoke effusively about Borussia Dortmund and while he was not suggesting that Sunderland will soon be competing for Champions League honours, he clearly feels that there is a lot to learn from the rebirth of the German giants in recent years.

A big part of that is clearly in building a strong rapport with supporters.

That is easy to say but they showed their commitment by heading straight from the press conference to answer questions from supporters on the Roker Report podcast.

The contrast from the Ellis Short era could hardly be starker.

Donald tactfully admitted that in the near future he will have some difficult and potentially unpopular decisions to make. he did, however, vow to explain them and if he makes good on that he will earn a lot of respect from the fanbase.