Stewart Donald gets a taste of the potential at his fingertips, and the immense responsibility he now holds
From the start there was an air of defiance about the Stadium of Light yesterday.
The support chanted relentlessly throughout, their passion undimmed by the most wretched season for generations.
The staple songs were out in force. ‘Sunderland ‘til I die’, ‘don’t worry about a thing’, ‘Wise Men Say’. All are songs forged in challenging times, and these have have been more testing than most.
Shortly before half-time, a plane flew over the pitch carrying that first message.
Sunderland ‘til i die.
For new owner Stewart Donald, it was quite a show.
If he did not already know the step-up he was taking in buying Sunderland, he does now.
He has built Eastleigh up to an impressive National League outfit, and is one of many to have played his part in Oxford United’s revival.
This, however, is a different beast. The mood as Sunderland swatted aside Wolves showed both the potential of what could be achieved and underlined the scale of failure that means this club will play its football in League One next season.
Wolves were abject on the final day of a season in which they have taken most teams apart.
Such was the passivity of their play, there is not a great deal that can be learned about either side.
There were some positives for Sunderland, nevertheless.
Ethan Robson was absolutely superb at the base of Sunderland’s midfield. His awareness was excellent, his first touch convincing and, physically, he looked comfortable.
Paddy McNair was excellent again and Joel Asoro was a menace.
Luke Molyneux made his debut and did not look at all out of his depth. He played his part in Ovie Ejaria’s opening goal, showed some good touches and looked more than able to live with the pace of the game.
Elliot Embleton was tidy in possession after his late substitution and, while Bali Mumba did not have time to make much of an impression on the pitch, his time will come.
Donald will oversee a dramatic upheaval this summer, but there are some good young players to build around.
The key will be surrounding them with proven League One players who will navigate what are bound to be choppy waters.
Above all else, yesterday afternoon was uplifting because of what happened on the pitch. The Stadium of Light has been brought to its lowest ebb this season, but here there felt like genuine hope for the future.
Whether that will prove to be well placed, only time will tell.
Should Donald’s takeover be approved by the EFL, then he will walk into a club where a number of players will inevitably see their futures elsewhere.
It is losing money at an alarming rate and will continue to do so in the third tier. While Donald’s CV is impressive, this is will be his biggest task by some distance. He will need deep pockets and sound football acumen. He needs to get his managerial appointment right and recruit well.
This is not a club with a good recent track record on that front.
The support they have received nevertheless shows the untapped potential Donald has at his fingertips, and above all else, the significant responsibility he has taken on.
In the last decade, there has not been anywhere near enough accountability and responsibility at the top of this club.
Donald arrives with significant goodwill, and it is now up to him not to waste it.
If he gets it right, something special awaits.