Stewart Donald has been sent a clear Sunderland transfer message after Northampton draw - and now must back Lee Johnson

OPINION: Sunderland’s long-term future may be looking brighter after confirmation that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is set to purchase a majority share in the club, but Stewart Donald must be prepared to back Lee Johnson in the short-term.

That was a crash back down to earth.

The Christmas Eve announcement that billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is set to take a majority stake in Sunderland brought real optimism for the long-term future of the club.

But Sunderland’s chastening draw at Northampton Town – in what was their first outing since the takeover announcement – was a swift and brutal reminder of the problems that the side face in the short-term.

Stewart Donald watched Sunderland's draw at Northampton TownStewart Donald watched Sunderland's draw at Northampton Town
Stewart Donald watched Sunderland's draw at Northampton Town
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While Louis-Dreyfus is understood to have a number of exciting plans for the medium to long-term future of the club, which will include revitalising the structure at the Academy of Light and bringing Sunderland into the 21st century in a number of departments, the short-term cannot be forgotten.

And in the short-term, it’s vital that the current playing squad is improved.

It was clear long before the goalless draw at Northampton that the Black Cats’ squad needed strengthening. It is fairly one-dimensional, and lacks some of the key attributes that new head coach Lee Johnson values and requires in order to implement the system and style of play he desires.

And that’s where Stewart Donald has to act.

Sunderland’s current majority shareholder saw the stalemate at Northampton with his own eyes, in what was his first appearance at a game since the win at Oxford United earlier this season.

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He will have seen where the side are so clearly lacking, particularly in the final third.

Pace and power were the buzzwords of the last January window, as then-manager Phil Parkinson sought a different dimension to his side. They are two traits still severely lacking in the current crop.

And while Louis-Dreyfus is expected to soon take control of the club – with hopes that EFL approval will be granted in the coming weeks – the January transfer window may come too soon for him to have an impact.

Donald, therefore, will have to ensure that he gives Johnson the resources he needs to bolster the squad.

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Of course, it isn’t the case that Donald can just throw money at the market; the League One salary cap means that is not a viable option.

But he can ensure that Johnson has everything required to get the targets he needs; those he feels will offer the side what they need in the final weeks of the season.

For while the table may not make for particularly pleasant reading at this moment in time, the nature of the 2020/21 campaign means that the promotion race is likely to go down to the wire.

Sunderland’s ambitions of a return to the Championship are not dead yet, and with plenty and twists of turns sure to come the key is ensuring that the squad is as well-equipped as possible to deal with what the season throws at them.

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And until Louis-Dreyfus’ deal is sanctioned, it must be Donald who gives Johnson the chance to build a side able to do that.

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