What has Stewart Donald done?
This is a question I’ve been asked many times. So a small background on me; I was born in Sunderland and I am a lifelong lads fan… however I live in Portsmouth so have to deal with Pompey fans on a daily basis. As they aren’t privy/interested in Sunderland news I frequently get asked why I dislike Stewart Donald.
Ultimately, I don’t dislike Stewart Donald as a person. I’ve always found him to be very approachable and have enjoyed chats with him over a beer in many a pub garden. The part of Stewart Donald I dislike is the business acumen.
That business acumen Stewart Donald has is very astute and smart. However, it isn’t what I think we need or desire. The fans demand someone who gets the club. Someone who understands what it’s like to have been in the quagmire one week and the top of the world the next. Someone personable, participative, passionate and well permanent. All of those qualities were shown by Stewart Donald. And then in the famous words of Billy Ocean, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. We stopped hearing from him, we felt like a mum who’d forgotten to send a birthday card. Understandably, the twitter debacle was within reason. But if you’re going to give access all areas on twitter it’s to be expected that 1 or 2 morons may do something silly and for that, on behalf of most Sunderland fans I apologise. The words said aren’t reflective of anyone I know.
Now let’s be realistic for one moment, while I was trying to think of what has changed, I mean REALLY changed I rattled my brain for half a day. Finally it hit me! Stewart Donald bought some new red seats, not only that he also invited us down to fit them. This brings me back to the astuteness of the man, I’m sure Champagne Charlie has something to do with this absolute genius PR move though. The fans rebuilt the seats! We’re re-connected. That was all it took Ellis. You should’ve just changed the seats and we’d have loved you again. I do concede I’m probably being a tad unfair here because he has also had a pint with some fans up and down the country. But seriously apart from that, what has he done?
“He’s streamlined the club and made us more profitable” I hear you cry. Has he though? Or has he made multiple people redundant to try and balance the already balanced books? Has he stripped the club of its biggest outgoings, to increase his own incomings? If he has made us more profitable why did we need to borrow £10 million from the FPP lads for the PA system and a lift? Maybe I’m looking into it with biased eyes but this doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t sound like a club that is profiting from anything! I think it’s also worth noting Stewart’s net worth has risen £20 million in the short time he has been with us.
During The Donald years more has gone wrong than gone well. For instance, the Checkatrade Trophy. Don’t lie, we all secretly wanted to win it, even if it was just a “Mickey Mouse Cup”. For the Southern Supporters in the South Branch, we didn’t just WANT to win, we NEEDED to win. Living in the south, with pompey fans daily reminders of how rubbish we must be if they’d beat us. Even though we can’t directly attribute this loss to Stewart Donald, it was at this game that fans started noticing something awry within the camp. Reports of Charlie and Stewart not talking, reports that Juan didn’t want to sit near either, reports that Charlie wasn’t even coming to the game! Of course, a lot is paper talk and I understand but it gave a small insight into the club.
Failure to gain promotion is something I highly blame not Jack Ross, not the squad, but Stewart Donald (and the rest of the board) for. When it became clear that Josh Maja wasn’t sticking around, we should’ve acted fast and got a replacement in. A decent replacement would’ve seen us promoted, a more speculative and ambitious replacement would’ve seen us promoted… we ended up with Will Grigg who’s fire has been extinguished under Sunderland’s tutelage, a certain Mr Grigg who wasn’t even wanted by the manager. We needed promotion, Stewart knew that, Charlie knew that, the fans knew it! But somehow it all fell to pieces. From January onwards we looked troubled in front of goal. We looked like an Italian early 90’s team. We would try our hardest to score, once we did we knew we wouldn’t get another so did our damnedest to defend that 1 goal cushion. This tactic inevitably ended with us drawing 9 games 1-1 from January to April alone!
I’m sure we’ve all heard what a debacle that transfer window was and Stewart Donald’s refusal to allow the new series of the Netflix documentary be aired until the January transfer window was wiped from the camera reels. I get it, it was their first big window. Their first time to do something meaningful, I believe where it went wrong was a podcast that Mr Donald did not long after taking charge. He said “the piss-taking party is over”. Yet, in that same podcast he also said “we have a huge league one budget, one that would beat half the championship teams”. Any club, player or agent listening to that had just rubbed their hands together, the piss taking party could continue as Sunderland have said they have money.
I actually bumped into a well known goal scoring talismans agent during a charity football match and got talking to him about Sunderland, his player was due to come to us in that January window. He was one the MANY strikers we tried for, the rumour we had been told was this particular player asked to double their wages to join Sunderland. Professionally or unprofessionally he showed me evidence to the contrary. He asked for £5,000 a week more, £260,000 a year. A small fee to pay for someone currently tearing the championship to pieces. He was told we simply did not have those funds available and alas the lad didn’t sign.
My final gripe, is the sacking of Jack Ross and the subsequent hiring of Phil Parkinson. As a squad we had stagnated, we weren’t picking up the results the fans demanded. As painful as it was for some, Jack had to leave. What we didn’t know was, we had no money to replace him. Had we known that I think it may have changed a few minds, nonetheless Phil Parkinson come in. The only man silly enough to take the poison chalice of the Sunderland managers job. This is a man who knows how to earn league one promotion having done so with Colchester United and Bolton. I’d guess there’s many a Sunderland fan out there who’ll also remember a certain League One Bradford side beating us in the 2015 FA cup 5th round to reach the Quarter Finals.
This is and was, on paper, a fairly decent snap signing. It wasn’t inspiring, but it was promising. Yet, he seems to have the players doing everything completely the opposite way of Jack Ross. Instead of being methodical in the build up and tight at the back. We became headless chickens unable to work for each other and only for ourselves. This saw us reach our worst times as a football club. We shouldn’t keep changing managers, I agree. My counter question is this, what is it you want from Sunderland Mr Donald? Maximise profits? You’re a businessman, I understand it. Well if that is the answer you need to speculate to accumulate! You need to put something in to make us that attractive proposition that saw you want to take over this great club!
The North-East fans of football have a higher demand of satisfaction, we aren’t happy with mediocrity. We want near-on perfection and when you have Sunderland fans on board you get 100% of our heart, when you lose just 1% of that it doesn’t take very long for the other 99% to follow