Monsieur Salut writes: it is a pleasure to come across a New York take on Sunderland that doesn’t just gasp in disbelief at the turkeys-voting-for-Christmas syndrome.
When the Dow Jones financial newspaper Barron’s decided SAFC was worth a look for its Penta section, the task fell to Tom Teodorczuk, who grew up in Virginia but also studied at Durham so knows the patch. It’s an interesting read – and can be seen in its original form at this link – and I will leave the Americanised spellings unchanged. It appeared beneath the peculiarly American headline, ‘The Rebirth of the UK’s Sunderland Soccer Club’ …
Monsieur Salut writes: one of the joys of editing Salut! Sunderland is the chance it offers to read the gems of Pete Sixsmith even before they appear before the public gaze. Book publishers should be now be forming an orderly or disorderly queue to snap up rights to his magnificent twin series, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground, the title inspired by Ewan MacColl’s most successful song (for Ground read Face), and – when writing about home games – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team.
Sixer modestly dismisses is all as ‘mere ephemera’ but when did mere ephemera last present such a wonderful blend of football writing, travelogue, history, geography and wit?
Today – and doubtless Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven, at heart Oxford fans (though also, at heart, Sunderland fans now) will cast a fascinated eye or four over Sixer’s prose. Today, it is right to take a look at both the Manor Ground and its successor, the Kassam Stadium. Neither fits Pete’s idea, nor mine, of the perfect football ground. But we did both see a fabulous Sunderland goal there back in 1973, when the white-hot excitement of FA Cup glory was still a warm glow …
Monsieur Salut writes: it reads like an open letter and comes from Tom Lynn, a familiar figure at Sunderland games home and away as well as being the man who edited a much-missed fanzine The Wearside Roar. The sentiments are intended for ‘Brian’.
Someone whose e-mail address does appear to belong to a Brian has been writing quite regularly to Salut! Sunderland with relentlessly hostile thoughts on the new regime.
As I have said repeatedly about controversial contributors, people are fully entitled to express strong views at this site provided this is done with decency and within the laws for defamation.
Who or what is Brian? The Salut! Sunderland jury is out, but inclined to convict. A majority suspect a closet Mag. I am still not sur,e though the short correspondence I had with the owner the e-mail address in question did nothing to challenge that majority assumption.
The latest outburst from ‘Brian’ appeared as a comment on the second part of our Charlie Methven interview. The comment dismisses Stewart Donald/Charlie and Jack Ross as the ‘three amigos’ and you can see it in full at this link. Here is Tom’s response ….
Yesterday – check out this link – the first part of Salut! Sunderland‘s Who are You? interview with the Oxford-supporting Sunderland AFC executive officer Charlie Methven* brought us his thoughts on the ‘heart versus heart’ nature of torn-between-two-loves match between the two clubs.
In today’s second and concluding instalment, Charlie compares and contrasts Oxford United and Sunderland, guides us on the Jack Ross project for SAFC and appeals to our fans to show a little more business common sense than is always evident. It’s another great read but don’t expect a scoreline prediction …
The start of a busy 11-day spell for Sunderland takes Jack Ross’s side to the Kassam Stadium for the second leg of this season’s home-and-away Donald derby.
Our owner’s connections and allegiance to the opponents are well known.
He and Charlie Methven, minority shareholder and executive director, have shown heartening commitment to SAFC since taking over from the absent and disillusioned Ellis Short. But both are fervent OUFC supporters and will remain so to their dying days even though they have – literally – bought into the passion and yearning for success on Wearside.
Malcolm Dawson writes……..in the briefest of statements the club has announced that it has reached an agreement with Papy Djilobodji that will finally bring an end to his employment at SAFC and bring closure to a saga which seems to epitomise the way the club had been badly run and the contrast in policy and attitudes that this current regime has brought to Sunderland AFC.
The statement in full reads: “Sunderland AFC has reached an agreement with Papy Djilobodji for his departure, his employment having terminated on 21 September 2018.” I would suspect the terms of the agreement precludes the club saying much more at this time, but a costly court case has been avoided and hopefully the matter has been resolved to the benefit of the club rather than the player.
Embracing the Sea Change at Sunderland.
Two recent statements on the club website show just how things are changing on the banks of the Wear and how we are moving back to a situation where the Stadium of Light is once again the home of Sunderland Association Football Club and no longer that of Sunderland Football PLC.
The first was the announcement that Sir Bob Murray had invited Stewart Donald onto the board of The Foundation of Light. The Foundation is the charitable arm of Sunderland AFC but is totally independent of it and receives no financial support from the club, having to raise its own finances.
I recently went to the very impressive Beacon of Light building which is close to the ground next to the aquatic centre, for a meeting and was very impressed with what I saw. As might be expected, there are sports facilities including a 7 a side 4G pitch on the roof, although it is covered so it might be said there is a roof above the roof, but there is a cafe, meeting rooms, an education centre, nursery, skills training facilities, a physiotherapist etc. The project is something very close to Bob Murray’s heart and by inviting Stewart Donald onto the Board of Trustees re-establishes the close bond between the football club and its charitable arm.
Sir Bob is a man whose influence and impact on Sunderland AFC has been huge. It was he who masterminded the move to the Stadium of Light and the building of the Academy and I have it on good authority that he was very hurt by our previous owner making him persona non grata in and around the football club. It’s good to know that the situation has changed and his presence is welcomed once again.
And read this from Stewart Donald, “The people of Sunderland and wider North East region are at the heart of our desire to reconnect and revive this fantastic football club. I look forward to working alongside Sir Bob and the other Trustees to improve the lives of those in need across Wearside and beyond.” Add to this the numerous statements from Stewart and Charlie that although they bought the club, it belongs to the supporters and compare with the attitude of the Shorts, who on meeting supporters in North America and asked what their interest was, said “we own the club.” That of course was true but suggests a different mindset when it came how the club was to be run.
The second statement regarding the “amicable agreement” with Didier Ndong was more than welcome too. I don’t really know what was going on in the minds of Ndong and his advisers though it has been suggested that his failure to return to training was an attempt to force a cut price move thus allowing any new club daft enough to sign him to pay him (and presumably his agent) substantially more than had they to pay a transfer fee. Full marks to the current regime at the club for calling his bluff, serving him notice of breach of contract, thus not having to pay him, retaining his registration so that he can’t play for anyone else until at least January and for the club to get something back if and when he does sign for another club.
I believe his situation is slightly different to that of Djilibodji, who had at least been given permission to return late to Sunderland but I should expect a similar outcome as taking the matter through the courts would not come cheap. I also think the club would be prepared to undergo an expensive battle should the player try to fight his case.
These are just two of the many positive things that have impressed me with the way things are going since the club was sold just six months ago. The club’s priorities seem to have changed from making what were in essence decisions to try to develop the business side of the club to those which will benefit the footballing side of things. Obviously there is an overlap and the two go hand in hand but whereas with Ellis Short at the helm, it seemed that he was running it as a business, now it is being run as a football club with the aim of making it financially stable.
We find ourselves in a lower division than we have for years but the difference in the mentality of the squad and those looking after the finances are also completely different since the change of ownership. I have wondered in the past about player recruitment and how much power people like Lee Congerton and Roberto di Fanti were given and how much the deals they struck were in the interests of the club and whether or not they and others involved in the process benefited personally. I don’t know and maybe they didn’t but I can’t help but wonder. There have been plenty of examples of deals that were certainly not in the club’s best interests and I feel that sometimes previous managers have been blamed for wasting money when perhaps they had little control over who was brought in and on what wages.
I won’t tar all players with the same brush. Amongst others, Vito Mannone, Craig Gardner and of course Jermain Defoe did sterling work forging links with supporters but there were too many examples over the past few seasons of players who didn’t really appear to give a toss about the club, the supporters or the region.
The fact that Tony Coton is in charge of recruitment working within strict parameters and that we have a Sunderland supporter as Managing Director, gives me the confidence that the club will be signing decent players at sensible prices and so far all the players that have come to the club seem to have the desire to play and an uncompromising attitude on the pitch coupled with a wish to develop a bond with the fan base. Max Power giving a fan a lift to the pub, Jack Baldwin and others giving up their time to go over to the Foundation of Light to work with local school kids, the way that Lynden Gooch took care of his young mascot before the Rochdale game, young players asking how to get more involved with charitable work are all recent examples of an improving relationship between club, supporters and the area and in presenting a positive image of Sunderland AFC.
Add to that the fact we are having good performances on the pitch and have a decent set of results is making this the most enjoyable season for a Sunderland supporter for quite some time. Can this sea change continue if and when we progress up the pyramid? I’ll wait and see but for now I’m enjoying the ride.
Ha’way the Lads
Monsieur Salut discusses the need for a sensible balance between openness and discretion in the pre-season transfer market…
Who knows? By the time I finish writing this, or soon afterwards, Sunderland could have clinched the signings of two strikers, a central defender and a midfielder.
If so, the concerns I am about to address will seem unnecessary and pointless.
But does anyone else share my growing reservations about the indiscreet manner of our approach to recruitment? Well I can answer that. They do, or at least one supporter who posted at Twitter does – he made his view known in a robust fashion that would prevent his tweet’s reproduction at this site.
Monsieur Salut writes: I often envy the lifestyles of Pete Sixsmith and Malcolm Dawson, enjoying the North East without any longer the need to do much work – though both, in their own ways, remain active – and free to pop along to any match they choose. Then I read their accounts of afternoons or evenings wasted watching SAFC and, remembering too many similar experiences from my own life, start to feel a lot less envious.
Sunderland games have not always been Malcolm’s first choice in recent times. But he has stuck by the team through thin and thinner and is now encouraged by the new regime. He describes his return from the brink quite magnificently. Please read on …
Our question-and-answer discussions with Sunderland’s executive director, Charlie Methven, continues with a series of detailed points put to him by Salut! Sunderland‘s deputy editor, Malcolm Dawson. I called Malcolm’s efforts speeches followed by questions, Charlie thought “lectures” the more appropriate description while appreciating the depth of his thinking.
And each ends with a highly pertinent question. Let the pair of them speak for themselves (and see the series in full at this link). Many thanks to all the readers who came here yesterday to see what Charlie had to say; we wish only that a few more had also taken the trouble to put their own views across or respond to
his comments …