Big-spending days are over but why can't Borussia Dortmund be a model, say Sunderland's new regime
Day one for Sunderland's new regime and it was lost on no one that they spent more time with fans and media than Ellis Short did in a decade of ownership.
The key message? That Sunderland will no longer be taken for a ride, that the days of excessive spending and muddled thinking were over.
That after the numbing years of Premier League largesse, the time has come to reconnect the club with its community.
Both Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven were keen to strike the balance between ambition and realism.
While Sunderland will not compete financially with the top clubs in the country, they believe that is no obstacle to their own vision of success.
Donald said: “I am not going to be able to compete with £50-60m transfers. That’s about as liquid as I needed to be. Right at the top end, the Man Citys Man Uniteds, I’m not your man for that.
“Can we get Sunderland back to the Premier League with me in charge? Absolutely.
“I will have to do things right and I won’t be able to make – and Ellis will have said this – Ellis Short-proportion mistakes. He has written off £125m or something in that region. That would hurt me more than it hurts Ellis. But can I get the club back to the Premier League? Absolutely.”
Methven, who will become a director alongside Donald, stressed that changing the club’s culture from top to bottom is key.
From a playing perspective, getting out of League One is the sole aim but in the bigger picture, Methven sees a German giant who bounced back spectacularly from hard times as a good point of reference.
“People who come here will be coming here from now on on the appropriate salary and because they desperately want to play for one of the greatest clubs in the world,” he said.
“That is what you need here. Is it too much to ask? We don’t think so but it has to come right from the top, all the way down and everyone has to be working very hard and understand that the money being spent, the vast majority of it is the fans’ money and we are fully aware that in this part of the world, that is hard-earned money. So it needs to be spent carefully, constructively.
“What can Sunderland achieve? The answer is that the sky is the limit with the fan base this club has. The equivalent clubs are not Chelsea or Tottenham. The equivalent clubs are clubs like Borussia Dortmund, who understand what kind of club they really are which is a big, serious working class area, passionate about their football club. Do they try to outspend Bayern Munich? No.
“They do invest in their Academy, though, very heavily. They make sure they have a large stadium with accessible pricing and it is absolutely packed out at 60-70,000 per game. That is the model for Sunderland, that’s actually what Sunderland is.
“It is not about trying to compete with Spurs and trying to be the flash guys which, I am afraid, is where it has gone for the past 10 to 15 years. It’s a lack of sense of what this club should be all about. And by doing that, we can reconnect with the fans and the fans will see their values represented on the pitch, their values represented in the boardroom by people who really care, who roll their sleeves up and who really believe in hard work.
“If you’re really going to aim high, for a club with a massive, real working-class fanbase, then that’s the model.
“It’s accessible football, packing out the stadium, fantastic academy and when a player gets to a certain level, you can sell him and use the money to keep the project going.”
They are strong words, and both know they will mean little if they don’t deliver.
The hard work starts now.