Sunderland AFC takeover: Key priorities for new owners as Mark Campbell talks continue

Sunderland fans are waiting patiently for the white smoke to appear above the Stadium of Light.

By Richard Mennear
Wednesday, 19 June, 2019, 12:28
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Talks and negotiations between Stewart Donald and the Mark Campbell-led consortium - aiming to become majority shareholder at Sunderland - are ongoing.

A date of June 19 was originally earmarked as a potential completion date, then, but it was expected to be later this week.

It could yet drag into next week.

Naturally, there will be a tension and nervousness among the Sunderland fanbase until a deal is complete.

It is understood due diligence has been completed and talks are ongoing with hope a deal can soon be struck.

These complex deals take time, something Sunderland fans are fully aware of. Campbell and his team have spent time on Wearside recently.

There will be plenty of work to be done once confirmation is forthcoming, though Stewart Donald has rightly stressed Sunderland are not standing still with work around transfer targets ongoing.

Clearly, though, the quicker there is clarity over the ownership structure the better as that is when the transfer business will ramp up ahead of the players returning early next month.

The first pre-season friendly, away to South Shields is now just a few weeks away on July 11, ahead of the tour to Portugal.

We examine the key priorities for Campbell & Co ahead of the fresh investment hopefully on the way to Sunderland:

Back Ross

Donald has already said that the Scot will remain in charge regardless of who is majority shareholder.

Provided the Campbell-led deal goes ahead as planned then there needs to be a clear statement that Ross is the man to lead the club forward.

Ross, by his own admission, fell short last season but has put the foundations in place for success this season and he deserves the chance to build on those.

There needs to be a clear stance that Ross is the man to lead the club forward.

Transfer business

Ross has a strong core of a squad at Sunderland, major surgery isn’t needed this summer but it is imperative five or six additions are made in key areas.

Clearly Sunderland need to add two new centre backs to their ranks, that is key.

A winger and at least one more prolific striker also key along with a right back and reinforcements in the goalkeeping department following the departures of Robbin Ruiter and Max Stryjek.

Work on transfer targets has been ongoing for months and Ross will need to be backed in the market.

Big money doesn’t have to be spent to guarantee success at this level.

Sunderland must box clever and ensure they get their recruitment right.

Build on the community focus

Donald was always clear that there was a limit to where he could take Sunderland financially. It was always expected that fresh investment would be needed this summer.

By his own admission, Sunderland can more than compete financially at this level with Donald & Co in charge.

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But the aim is to take the club to the next level by bringing additional investment onboard.

Donald, Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori made a conscious effort to re-engage with the fanbase when they took over the club from Ellis Short last summer.

Going on podcasts, replacing the Stadium of Light seats with fan help, getting out into the community more at events and talk-ins all part of that strategy.

It has worked and help re-engage a large section of the fanbase.

A key priority for the new owners will be to build on that. Sunderland need a clear strategy and direction to move to the next level with more structure on the football side of the business, something Jack Ross has alluded to previously.

Clearly winning promotion back to the Championship a key part of that. They will need the full backing of Wearside again next season to help them achieve it.

The club can rely on that support and it will be up to the new owners to build on the strong work done over the past twelve months.

Ensure the Academy remains a priority

Campbell, 46, is leading a four-strong consortium of English businessmen - two of which are understood to be cousins and have strong family links to the city of Sunderland.

They are fully aware of the importance of the academy to Sunderland AFC.

Donald has already confirmed his commitment to maintain the club’s category one status moving forward and it must continue to be a key priority.

Sunderland has produced a steady stream of young players over the years that have broken through into the first team, George Honeyman, Denver Hume, Lynden Gooch, Ethan Robson, Jordan Pickford, the list goes on.

Move on high earners

Sunderland could sign five or six quality League One players if they moved on just one of their high earners this summer.

The futures of Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo will be top of the to-do list. There is Championship interest in Cattermole, notably from Sheffield Wednesday, but his high wages remain a big issue.

Oviedo has interest from abroad, notably Club Brugge and Rosenborg.

Another season in League One was clearly an almighty blow to Sunderland and it is far from ideal having such big earners on the books, Duncan Watmore too on Premier League level wages.

Adam Matthews has left after his contract expired to free up a significant chunk of wages but more needs to be done to ship out the big earners and remodel the squad.

Outline their vision for the club

It has, it is fair to say, been a turbulent few years for Sunderland AFC. Successive relegations saw the club go - in the blink of an eye - from competing with the very best to third tier football.

There has been a lot of heartache on Wearside as a result.

Not going up this season another devastating blow but one the supporters hope the squad can use as inspiration going forward.

Sunderland fans will want to know what the vision for the club is moving forward. What is the realistic aim for the new owners? Where do they see the club in five years?

What will be the model moving forward? How important will the club’s academy be within that and how do they intend to support the manager in terms of budget?

Key questions fans will hope they soon have the answers to.