Tony Gillan: Good start by new Sunderland boss, but there are still questions to answer

It's impossible right now to know if the swift and clinical changes at Sunderland are a good thing.

Monday, 28th May 2018, 12:00 pm
Stewart Donald.

Club history has consistently shown the rashness of assuming that “things can’t get any worse.”

But we don’t discard the possibility of matters improving either.

Whatever anyone’s opinion of Ellis Short, Sunderland faced stagnation at best if he stayed and the man himself would probably admit as much.

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Hope has been defibrillated. Yet worry prevails among supporters who would like to know more.

The new bigwig, Stewart Donald, has done everything right in his embryonic ownership of SAFC. There is a difference between responding to a question and actually answering it and so far he has done the latter.

Mr Donald and his oppo, Charlie Methven, have been openness itself and are enjoying what we are obliged to call a honeymoon period.

However, questions remain. Much has been written about the pair; and it’s possibly all true.

But the fans like to hear from the source that matters most: Mr Donald himself.

For a start, we would like to know how wealthy he is. This is a thoroughly impertinent question to ask anybody; but we can’t help wondering.

SAFC is in better financial nick than a few weeks ago. But what does “debt-free” mean in practice, because matters are not as straightforward as that description implies?

Mr Methven estimates £25m is still owed for players bought on tick? How will that be paid?

Is Sunderland owed anything back for players sold?

Ellis Short is now owed £40m to be paid over the next two years. Where from?

Mr Methven says those repayments are secured against the parachute payments, but not taken directly from them. What will happen to the parachute payments then? Pay off the outstanding £25m on transfer fees? Buy new players? Put it on a horse?

Which other investors are coming in – if any? Who will own what percentage of the club?

To their credit, Mssrs Donald and Methven have faced and satisfactorily answered a number of questions up to now.

This is a welcome change and their appearance on BBC Newcastle’s Total Sport this Thursday should be interesting – and provide further enlightenment.

Another of Mr Methven’s statements provided perhaps the club’s best piece of PR in years (not that there was much to beat).

He said: “We’re going to act in the interests of the club and for some people who’ve been acting in their own interests for an awful long time at this club – it’s going to come as a tough surprise.”

There remains much to do on this front. But the new regime has already begun to deliver on that statement.

Sunderland fans are entitled to cackle at this.

When Sunderland’s Midas-like CEO left the club last week, opinion was not especially divided on the news.

The position of CEO has been discontinued altogether and, after the vertiginous ineptitude of the last two incumbents, it’s difficult to argue.

An entirely new structure is in place. Part of it is the new role of managing director.

That position has been taken by Tony Davison who, as mentioned in every news report about him, was mascot Samson the Cat 20-odd years ago.

This is how journalism works, I’m afraid.

Mr Davison has over the decades acquired a wealth of experience in the commercial side of football. But it’s all about the cat.

No report of his arrival showed Mr Davison’s face; only the damn cat’s.

He must now know how Stormy Daniels feels when she wants to talk about her charity work.

And here, we are unable to resist joining in.