Monsieur Salut writes: what might George Orwell have said of the takeover? Will a new manager give Jack Rodwell a cuddle and turn him back into the player he thinks he still is? Questions about the takeover abound and who better than Pete Sixsmith to delve into his old George Orwell paperbacks, and memories of teaching history to year 11, and seek to tease out the answers? ….
Many years ago, when I was a history teacher in County Durham, I would suggest that my Year 11 students should read Animal Farm to get George Orwell’s view of the Russian Revolution and the descent into Stalinism. It was a popular read partly because it was a short one, partly because it had talking animals in it and partly because they liked to draw parallels between the animals and various members of the teaching staff.
The animal I was decreed to resemble was not one of the pigs but Benjamin the donkey. He is the companion of the great Boxer, the mainstay of the revolution who follows every edict with rampant enthusiasm, something Benjamin does not.
When the other animals criticise him for this, Benjamin looks at them and says something along the lines of: “You think you have seen many things, but I’ll tell you one thing you have never seen. You have never seen a dead donkey.”
Donkeys live a long time, far longer than sheep and chickens and even poor Boxer who is worked to death and then sold to the knackerman for halfpennies and coppers.
The point of this interpretation of the Orwellian fable is this:
I have been watching Sunderland for longer than most donkeys live. I have seen and been enthusiastic about a fair few new dawns. But now, in the approaching twilight years, I am perhaps a tad more cynical about this latest takeover.
I am pleased that Elis Short has sold the club. His tenure has been a disaster with his money and our support having been wasted, particularly over the last four years.
His appointment of that wretched duo of Margaret Byrne and Roberto de Fanti has cost him a lot of dollars and also his good name on Wearside – not that he will be paying many visits to Sunderland’s pubs and clubs.
His successor is an insurance company owner who has considerably more football knowledge and understanding than our Missourian, not that he would need very much.
Stewart Donald has owned Eastleigh for a number of years and has a share in Oxford United. We will be playing the latter in the league next season and it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that we could play the former in the FA Cup.
He heads a group of “investors” whose names have not been made public yet. They may be a Spanish hedge fund (my mane bristles at those two words; hedge funds are not greatly liked in my stable) who have been involved with Segunda B team Albacete and who see Sunderland as a project that could make them a lot of money if we return to the Premier League much sooner than old donkeys like me anticipate.
As for Chris Coleman, his record was not great. His tactics were criticised, some of his team selections left much to be desired and maybe the new owners wanted to clear the decks.
Coleman will get fixed up with another job in the summer and most Sunderland fans would wish him well. He came across as a decent man who understood the club and the immediate culture of the area. But his results were awful – we didn’t even get the new manager bounce that an appointment sometimes bring; a 2-0 win at Burton Albion is hardly a bounce.
Like that cynical donkey, I want to wait and see what happens.
Who will they appoint? Chris Wilder at Sheffield United and a former Oxford United manager is being widely tipped as there is trouble at t’Lane.
What kind of budget will the new manager have? Clearly he won’t be shopping at Harrods or even Marks and Spencer. But he doesn’t want to rooting around in the charity shops as both Grayson and Coleman were. I would settle for a decent basket of Lidl goods.
Will he keep the young players that Coleman has nurtured this season, the likes of McNair, Asoro, Maja and Robson? Will they sign new contracts or will they think that playing at Sunderland is not great for their career. Mind, Henderson and Pickford disprove that theory.
What will happen to Rodwell? Some would say that Coleman could have handled that situation in a different way that might have had a more positive outcome for both club and player.
Perhaps a sympathetic conversation with a young man who may well be struggling with his own problems may get him back on side so he can set about regaining his place in the England squad for Qatar 2022.
I have often used the quote from Macbeth, “then ‘twere well it were done quickly” and we now have some time to appoint someone who might have us up and running by July and who might be able to purge the playing staff of those who really should no longer be wearing the red and white striped shirts.
If Stewart Donald could get us a proper strip back, he will be off to a cracking start.
But like Benjamin, I shall not be getting too enthusiastic.