Phil Smith: Modern takeovers bring major risk, but Sunderland is a club ready for change

Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
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In modern football there is no greater gamble.

The toss of a coin, the result of which can be invigoration or accelerated decline. The takeover.

Nowhere are the perks and pitfalls more evident than the Championship.

There are the giants of the game who have been hollowed out by abysmal and toxic ownership. Nottingham Forest, who escaped an ignominious relegation only on the final day of the season.

QPR, whose ownership is in fairness more a story of incompetence than malice. Nevertheless, their Premier League aspirations have been run down by poor recruitment and bad selections for the dug-out. Then there are those who have fallen out of the league entirely, Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic to name but two.

There are also the winners, however, the sleeping giants and the plucky underdogs who have been lifted by investment.

Sheffield Wednesday, a forgotten colossus of the British game, now one of the heavy favourites for promotion after some savvy and heavy investment from the Thai Chansiri group.

Whether Reading can capitalise on the sterling work of Jaap Stam last season will depend much on whether the new Chinese owners can demonstrate the nous necessary to secure another season of overachievement.

Put simply, the ineffectiveness of the fit and proper persons test means that any club is one bad sale away from serious problems.

Many football fans, then, could be forgiven for taking a ‘better the devil you know’ approach to change at the top of their clubs. Not so at Sunderland, where the toil of six successive relegation fights, the last of which proved to be a comprehensive failure, have left numbness and apathy everywhere you turn in the fanbase.

Change may bring uncertainty, but the consensus is that it would be far preferable to the alternative should Ellis Short be unable to sell.

An increased tightening of the belts, little prospect of a surge next season and continued fear of the financial situation worsening. With just weeks to go before the season begins, it increasingly feels as if an electric charge is needed to overhaul the squad, to attract a manager who can lift the fans and build momentum for what will be a challenging campaign ahead.

If a sale cannot be secured, then the first job will to be to find a way to instil some pride and reconnect with the fans. It will fall to the current hierarchy to find a manager who can stabilise the club and, as unglamorous as it sounds, build a platform that will attract a high calibre boss when they depart.

The takeover talk may well have put off Derek McInnes, but there is also no disputing that Sunderland’s reputation in the game hampers them in the search for both players and managers.

Only when that ends can the club truly move forward and begin to undo the damage of 10 exhausting years in the Premier League.

The quickest and most effective way to achieve that would clearly be a new broom, with new ideas and new faces, to build a new identity for the club.

After eight bruising years, Sunderland is a club ready to toss the coin again.

All are holding their breaths that the result will be better when it lands this time around.