In the continuing saga of Stewart Donald’s attempt to buy Sunderland AFC, Monsieur Salut has a minor interest to declare.
Many of you will have seen references to one Charlie Methven, a public relations wizard and a director of Madrox, the company created by Stewart to take over SAFC and – who knows? – make it great again.
He and Monsieur Salut are former colleagues and also got on well when working for the same newspaper.
I knew nothing of Charlie’s involvement as I sat in the rain on the beach at La Favière in the south of France and fiddled with my mobile so as to listen to Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett’s commentary of Sunderland vs Wolves. On Wearside, Nick B repeatedly informed me, there was blazing sunshine.
Only when I whizzed through Sunday’s post-match tweets did I come across this reference by the Chronicle’s SAFC chronicler, James Hunter ….
— James Hunter (@JHunterChron) May 6, 2018
— James Hunter (@JHunterChron) May 6, 2018
As an indirect result of that discovery at Twitter, I do know a little more about what the world may look like under Madrox, though what I can say is limited.
No new manager has been appointed, “pending” EFL approval of the takeover, but three people – broadly the names that have attracted most speculation – are on the shortlist and have, as we have seen, been careful not to rule themselves out. Make of that what you will.
Supporters can be assured that in Donald’s hands, Sunderland would have comfortably the highest wages budget in League One. They cannot be assured that all of the players they would wish to stay at the Stadium of Light would actually do so. If a 20-goals-a-season striker at third tier level costs six times less than – how shall I put this? – someone much sought after elsewhere and therefore highly marketable, you can guess which one is more likely to be playing for SAFC next season.
There will be root and branch reform of the club, the aim being to eliminate waste (and wasters). Every effort will be made to tap into the “fabulous fan base” in a city (and wider catchment area) where, perhaps more than any other in England, football dominates everyday life.
What brought Charlie, the suave Old Etonian and M Salut, an oik from a County Durham comprehensive, together? This is of much less interest to Sunderland supporters but I shall give an outline all the same.
We both, for a protracted spell, took Conrad Black’s Canadian dollar and worked for The Daily Telegraph together. I was a reporter, he edited “Peterborough”, a disrespectfully witty diary column (one of many good things about the Telegraph to be done away with in recent times). Perhaps surprisingly, Charlie was also a combative trade union shop steward – “father of the National Union of Journalists chapel”, as office branches are called in journalism – and was enthusiastic about taking on Black and his management on behalf of colleagues.
Ever anxious to snoop, I asked around. Other former Telegraph colleagues responded when I asked for help in writing something at this “tinpot but literate fan site”. I said I remembered Charlie “as a good lad, as they’d say in the North East, though I hadn’t seen him since we had drinks in a Gibraltar bar many moons ago while covering a story”.
Let my confrères and consoeurs take up the story:
* I remember him losing a £50 bet over which party Murdoch’s Sun would support in an election… but paying up promptly. This was when he was at the Peterborough column at the Telegraph. Although he was in charge there when the decision was taken to give up the name of that column, I think. And then the Mail nicked it and copyrighted it. Duh!
* I think his ridiculous hair (gel long after the 80s), perma tan, coloured socks and Gucci loafers, all worn apparently with no sense of irony, were quite memorable. And the fact that his Etonian accent gave way to a strong =Oxfordshire burr “in drink” was also quite something to behold .. loved Charlie.
* My memory is that he was a fervent fan of Oxford United; he certainly had a lot of anti-Swindon chants at his disposal. I have fond memories of him, especially in his casting-against-type work as FOC [union leader] at the Telegraph when the NUJ was fighting Conrad. And he was a good hack, albeit he could be abrasive in style sometimes.
* We used to have fabulous stand-up rows at work … he was in red socks and pinstripe suits in his mid-to-late 20s, so makes me laugh thinking of him being involved in football!
* He dresses more conservatively these days
Better than all of that by a mile, as far as we and our narrow SAFC interests are concerned, is the view of our friend Paul “Sobs” Dobson, who when not writing compellingly as assistant editor of ALS pops up here a lot, leaving pithy comments or judging the Who are You? awards. Paul travels with the SAFCSA Durham branch and is rarely absent from a game home or away.
When I mentioned at Facebook that Charlie had never once, when we worked togther, mentioned a future plan to save my football club, Sobs replied: “Met him on Wednesday. Knows his football.”