Stewart Donald right to let Jack Ross take the transfer strain as Sunderland boss makes strong impression
On Tuesday afternoon, Stewart Donald appeared on talkSPORT for the second time as Sunderland owner.
It seems truly remarkable that it has been only two months since his first appearance, when the Black Cats chairman told Jim White that a deal for a new manager had been agreed.
There has been more change since then than many clubs will see in the next three summers.
The manager in question, as it soon turned out, was Jack Ross.
Donald said he was ‘jumping up and down’ after reaching an agreement with the St Mirren boss.
With less than two weeks to go until the season begins, that enthusiasm has proven to be undimmed. Donald said Ross had been a ‘breath of fresh air’.
Certainly, the two have built up a rapport, with both joking in recent days that Ross has proven to be far more relaxed when it comes to transfer business.
Ross is equally keen to bolster the squad for the League One challenge, but he has been determined to hold his nerve and get the right players in before the window shuts.
The Black Cats boss has had frustrations this summer, without doubt.
A number of targets have gone elsewhere, particularly up front where there remains a glaring deficiency.
Florian Kamberi and Mo Eisa are both players Sunderland would have been willing to commit seven-figure sums to signing, only to see them seal deals elsewhere.
Even now, Ross and his recruitment team work hard on targets amid fierce competition.
As Donald alluded to yesterday, there is a transfer jigsaw to piece together. Clubs will not sell until they have strengthened themselves, slowing the market to a crawl.
Donald’s concern is reflected in a fan base that saw only too well last season what happens when a team is underpowered up front.
It will be a tense fortnight with two additions essential, three welcome.
At this stage, it seems likely that a fee will be spent on a proven Football League goalscorer, with Ross then using the loan market to bolster his ranks.
He is unlikely to be flustered, having dealt impressively with the myriad issues at his doorstep this summer.
On want-away players he has been firm,
He appears to have won round many players whose futures were uncertain and has quickly defused the tensions of a summer where agent agitating threatened to produce a toxic atmosphere.
While his coaching and tactical credentials will be tested only when the season begins, at St Mirren his team played with impressive poise.
No wonder Donald is impressed.
Interestingly, the chairman has hinted on Twitter in recent days that he will now let Ross do the bulk of the talking, particularly when it comes to transfer and football personnel matters.
He wrote: “I have set the scene as much as I can on the playing side so the fans had a more informed view & a better understanding of the issues the club face. That is done now. Anymore info is too much agreed. Jack Ross can update fans as to where we’re moving forward – it should be him.”
Donald’s transparency has been a breath of fresh air this summer, his willingness to engage one of the key reasons supporters approach this season with optimism rather than dread.
He has brought fans closer to their club again and that should continue throughout the season, whether there are positive results or otherwise.
Letting Ross take some of the strain, though, is a sound call.
So far, his excitement at reaching a deal two months ago seems well placed.
The real tests are still to come, and Ross knows that better than anyone.
But when it comes to the tension of the transfer market and other emotive issues, he is proving to be a calming presence.
When discussing transfers, he has struck a good balance by keeping his cards close to his chest and relaying the intensity of his team’s efforts behind the scenes.
Donald is quite right to make full use of that.