Sunderland's recruitment set for overhaul as key Stewart Donald ally leaves in major development

Sunderland’s recruitment department is set for a major overhaul, with Tony Coton and Richard Hill leaving the club.

The pair were two of Stewart Donald’s first appointments to the football department after taking over the club.

Coton has been operating as head of recruitment after a previous stint at Aston Villa.

The departure of Hill is particularly significant and marks a major development behind the scenes at the club.

Two key figures have left the Stadium of Light

A close associate of Donald, Hill had numerous stints as manager at Eastleigh while Donald was chairman of the club.

In his role as Head of Football Operations, he has led the club’s transfer and contract negotiations, from the academy right up to first-team deals.

A club statement reads: “Sunderland AFC can this evening confirm that Richard Hill and Tony Coton have left the club with immediate effect.

“Both joined SAFC in 2018, undertaking the roles of Head of Football Operations and Head of Recruitment, respectively.

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“The board would like to place on record its gratitude to both Richard and Tony for their contribution and dedication over the past two years.

“All at SAFC wish them well in their future endeavours.”

The club have endured a mixed record in recruitment since the drop to the third tier, and it has long been a source of contention amongst supporters.

There have also been a number of high-profile contract sagas, such as those which eventually led to the departures of key players Josh Maja and Jon McLaughlin.

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Hill and Coton follow Paul Reid in leaving the club, with the former Eastleigh head of recruitment leaving his role as academy manager a fortnight ago.

Donald offered to resign as chairman and said he was ‘deseperately’ trying to sell the club.

In a controversial set of remarks, he also suggested that criticism from fans had put potential investors off.

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However, with no interested party ‘in the data room’, this recent move reflects that no takeover is imminent, and that those on the board and still involved in the running of the club have some crucial decisions to make ahead of the new campaign.