Sunderland defender reveals Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' positive impact ahead of new League One campaign
Tom Flanagan says that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ takeover of Sunderland has led to a different feel at the Academy of Light this summer.
And the defender believes that the anticipation of what the billionaire could bring to the club means that the squad are in a different place to previous summers.
Louis-Dreyfus watched from the stands as the Black Cats beat Hearts in a pre-season friendly on Saturday and has been busy at work behind the scenes transforming the club – as he has been since purchasing a majority stake in February.
Sunderland’s previous summers in League One have been clouded with off-field uncertainty, but with that new resolved the focus can be placed squarely on driving the club forward.
Indeed, it has been notable in Sunderland’s first two public pre-season fixtures that the mood in the camp has been remarkably good.
And Flanagan believes some of that is down to the early impact of Louis-Dreyfus.
“I think that comes from new ownership and things like that,” he admitted.
"I think there's a bit of anticipation for what he's going to do, no-one really knows yet. There's things changing around the training ground and it's a bit of a new era.”
Sunderland’s squad have also been keen not to dwell on their play-off failure last season, with Flanagan focusing purely on the challenge that lies ahead.
While the effects of the defeat to Lincoln City may linger externally, internally the focus is on achieving promotion at the fourth attempt.
And while there is plenty of squad rebuilding work to be done in order to achieve that, the defender believes the early signs are positive.
"With it being a bit of blank canvas in respect to us needing so many players, we could go one of two ways - but it looks like we're going in the right direction,” said Flanagan.
"Hopefully this will be the year, but we've had some crazy bad luck and some poor performances.
"Ultimately that's gone now, I'll think about that when I'm working in an office or something when I'm finish and I'll think about the time we messed it up.
"But for now, all I'm concentrating on is the next 50 games and moving forward.”
Squad morale has also benefitted from the pre-season trip to Edinburgh, which saw the squad at close-quarters for five days.
And Flanagan has shed some light on the off-field activities that were waiting for the squad in Scotland – with head coach Lee Johnson keen to maximise the time spent as a group.
“We had Rob Mason come in, the club historian, and that was quite an eye-opener for a lot of the group,” explained the defender.
"We've had someone come in from the SAS and just generally spend time together. We're going to spend a long season with each other so we may as well get any tension out early doors.
"The weather has helped and it's been different for everyone being in a city for pre-season. Usually you're out in the middle of nowhere and you don't see anyone, so it's been good for the group.”