Exclusive: Former Sunderland midfielder has this takeover message for Stewart Donald
Former Sunderland midfielder Alex Rae has urged Stewart Donald to act quickly in his attempts to sell the club - so the new ownership can continue the club’s upward trajectory.
Rae, who played for the club between 1996 and 2001, was speaking exclusively to the Echo before tackling the 2020 London Marathon for Erskine.
And the Scot, who counts Rangers and Millwall among his former clubs, gave his verdict on the takeover talk currently surrounding the Stadium of Light.
WIth Donald publicly announcing his intention to sell Sunderland in December, new owners are expected to be in place before the summer transfer window.
And Rae has advised the majority shareholder to ensure that is the case, and had some notable examples for the Black Cats’ new owners to follow as they bid to return the club to the top flight.
“Whenever I see clubs doing particularly well, everyone is in sync,” he explained.
“When I go back to my time at Sunderland, we had a chairman who was very much trying to take the club in the right direction.
“Bob built the Stadium of Light and had a trusted nucleus of players and staff and a good group of youth players too.
“If you can get all those elements rolling in the right direction then you can have a very good club.
“The perfect example is my old club Wolves. They’ve got a good manager, good players and the fans are loving it.
“It’s important that if they want to sell, the quicker someone can takeover the club and drive them forward the better - because that has to come from the boardroom.
“But if these guys are willing to dig in and back the manager then people should get behind them.”
Rae remains a keen follower of Sunderland’s results, and visited Wearside as recently as January for an appearance at the Fans’ Museum.
And while he is pleased with the impact made by Phil Parkinson in his relatively short time in charge of the club, he longs for the time when the Black Cats return to the heights he experienced during his spell on Wearside.
“It’s been a frustrating time, but thankfully Phil looks like he’s arrested what was happening for a while,” he said.
“There looks to be a good bit of momentum, which is brilliant because it’s been frustrating watching them.
“That’s the main thing - it’s been very, very frustrating.
“I don’t mean to disrespect anyone in League One, but when I see Sunderland playing some of the smaller teams in the league I think ‘my God’.
“I was fortunate that I was there for a couple of years in the Championship and a couple of years in the Premiership, so I’ve probably seen the better of things.
“You just want to get the club back to that place.”
Parkinson is well-known to Rae, with the duo having faced-off during their respective playing careers, and the 50-year-old feels that the former Bradford City boss is the right man to lead Sunderland back to the Championship.
And he feels that things could continue to grow once Sunderland return to the second tier, and see their staggering home support continue to swell.
“I know when Phil came in things were a bit stop-start, but he’s got that momentum now,” said Rae.
“I know Phil from back in the day when he was a player at Reading. He was a fierce competitor and he’ll be desperate to get promoted.
“It’s all about getting the club moving in the right direction again. There’s been a bit of apathy over the last few years, but the one consistent is the fans.
“They’re still getting 30,000, 35,000 and that’s remarkable.
“If they went back up to the Championship and keep that momentum then you’re looking at 40,000 people coming on a weekly basis and it makes a difference.
“I’ve been there. When you’ve got that backing it can make a difference.
“Whenever I hear Republica on the radio, it takes me back to the time I was playing at the Stadium of Light and the place was absolutely bouncing.
“I remember it fondly, and I miss those days because if anyone doesn’t enjoy their time at Sunderland then there’s something very much wrong.”
Rae was speaking to the Echo as he continues his preparations for the 2020 London Marathon, where he will be raising funds for Erskine.
“They’re a hospice who look after veterans, people who have been in the armed forces,” explained Rae.
“If it’s getting a bit tricky for their families to look after them, they have beds and can give them a decent care and so forth.”
Having never completed a marathon before, Rae is still continuing his work towards the big day – and is hopeful that Sunderland fans will support him in his bid to raise vital funds.
“I’ve always wanted to do a marathon, but I have to be honest - I didn’t realise the training that would be involved in this!
“I’ve done half-marathons before, but never a full marathon and around the 12 or 13 mile mark is where I’ve really hit a wall.”
“Sunderland fans could make such a difference,” continued Rae.
“Even if it’s just a pound or two, it doesn’t have to be substantial, because of the number of Sunderland’s fantastic support even if a few of them chipped in it could make a considerable difference to this hospice.”