Assessing the bizarre William Storey takeover saga and what Sunderland sources are saying
So long has it been since we last had live football to talk about, it came as something of a shock to realise that we are just three weeks away from the new season.
Somewhat predictably, however, the focus on Wearside remains on more takeovers that have yet to come to pass.
Supporters have waited patiently for news after it was reported in late July that Stewart Donald had entered a period of exclusivity with a potential buyer, but no clarity has emerged.
Storey’s emergence explained
Into the void has stepped William Storey.
Storey's controversial past in business is well known and so his regular social media updates, in which he has been declaring his interest in purchasing the club, have been met with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Storey stepped up his charm offensive with a trip to Wearside, complete with a retro Sunderland top and a BBC interview in which the standard platitudes were mixed with a series of incendiary claims.
The businessman claimed his company, Rich Energy, was valued at £100 million last year, which raised eyebrows given it has not published any accounts since 2017 and the product itself has not always appeared to be readily available.
Storey said he could not disclose the identities of the four 'blue chip' backers he says are on board with his bid.
Which is regrettable, given that it is really the only information that could lend credibility to his words.
It is all the more regrettable given that the same NDA has not prevented him claiming to have the best bid on the table.
It did not prevent him from telling the current board to 'put up or shut up', nor from making disparaging comments about the FPP group.
What any of this could possibly achieve, other than some widespread publicity, is difficult to discern.
None of it has helped to allay the concerns and nervousness many fans have about the future; this sense of limbo and vacuum of information all too familiar at a club that has essentially spent half a decade up for sale.
How the club have (and haven’t responded)
It has not helped either that, as with Mark Campbell, the club have not publicly distanced themselves from the prospect of a deal.
Though Stewart Donald reiterated his commitment to selling the club to the right buyer in the statement announcing his resignation as club chairman, his words at a meeting with supporter groups just days earlier still ring in the ears of many.
Then, the indication appeared to be that the club would be sold should the asking price be met.
Madrox's two years on Wearside have seen trust eroded almost entirely and so it is only natural that a scenario such as the one that has played out over the last couple of days brings an immediate and deep unease.
The Echo approached the club on Thursday and asked for comment on Storey's various claims.
In particular, whether they could confirm that he had placed a bid, whether an NDA had been signed and whether proof of funds from Storey and his group had been provided.
Storey's inference (and in fairness, it cannot be claimed to be any stronger than that) that the FPP group were attempting to take control were also put to the club.
The Echo was told there would be no comment.
Behind the scenes, it must be said, it is abundantly clear that Storey is not deemed to be a credible buyer of Sunderland AFC.
Sources have rubbished the prospect of a deal being struck and as such, any further comments from Storey can be taken with a generous pinch of salt.
Storey's visit to Wearside was not connected with club business and while it is well known that members of the board are on Wearside this week, it is not due to Storey's presence.
There are, it is worth remembering, important matters to be dealt with at the club, including key appointments such as an academy manager, a new recruitment boss and indeed at some stage, a new chair of the board.
Some lessons to be learned
Supporters continue to eagerly await updates on the proposed takeover, which was said to be expected before the start of a new season that is fast approaching.
Until then, the Storey mini-saga has underlined the value of a little more transparency.
There is also, perhaps, a lesson for prospective buyers here.
Grand statements about a passion for the club, an 'incredulity' about where it finds itself now, and grand promises on transfers and a return to the Premier League, are best left alone.
We have been there before and it is actions that matter.