Borussia Dortmund comparison seems outlandish but it's high time Sunderland think differently about football and success

It was, by and large, a press conference in which the story was one of modest expectations.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 4:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd May 2018, 4:11 pm
Sunderland's new owners say they want to be more like Borussia Dortmund.

Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven were eager to stress that there would be no more throwing money at problems, that Sunderland would not be able to compete, in their current guise, with the top clubs in the UK.

Donald was bullish about his finances, adamant that he could take Sunderland to the Premier League, but realistic in admitting that he would need a very different approach to former owner Ellis Short.

Throughout, the pair stressed that thinking about the Manchester Citys and the Manchester Uniteds of the footballing world was part of the problem. Sunderland are a League One club now, and facing up the fact would be crucial in starting to change it.

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There was, however, one eye-catching sequence in which Methven said he wanted to think big and see the club’s potential through the recent success of Borussia Dortmund.

It seems outlandish now, with the Black Cats at the lowest point in their history, and it is the kind of statement that can come back to haunt an owner.

Methven, though, was focusing not necessarily on Dortmund’s position in the European elite and more on their outstandingly active and engaged fanbase, their conveyor belt of young talent and their ability to punch above their weight day in, day out.

How successful Donald’s takeover will be no one can yet know, but it was refreshing to hear the club’s custodians grappling with the fundamental question: How can Sunderland overcome its inherent disadvantage in the modern game and find its own way to thrive?

Financially, Sunderland cannot hope to ever match the revenue streams that the top clubs draw in from sponsorship, hospitality and the like. Geographically, they have an issue in attracting top foreign talent, so they need other ways to close the gap.

One is clearly by engaging the remarkably loyal fanbase that few clubs can match.

That means getting them to the Stadium of Light, where their money will make a big difference and by creating an atmosphere inside that will significantly boost the team’s chances on the day.

Secondly, by using the club’s catchment area to produce talent who can perform for a number of years and then generate significant sums for the club should they move on.

Looking at it this way, you begin to see why Dortmund are such an appealing comparison for the new regime.

Of course, these are two different worlds and before anyone can think of how to compete against the top six, Sunderland need to think about how to compete with League One.

There is a new manager to secure, a new squad to build and a raft of under-performing players to move on.

That is going to be an almighty challenge and it is in that work that supporters will get a good sense of whether the new regime is going to work for them, whether it is going to put this proud club back where it belongs.

Still, the Dortmund comparison at least shows that those in charge have a good handle of what has gone so badly wrong in the last decade and have ideas that go well beyond throwing cash at players and managers with lofty reputations.

It is somewhere to start, at least.