Barnesy Blog: Where is the leadership at Sunderland AFC?

Direction. It is a matter of leadership. In business, education and football it is all about leadership and unfortunately at the moment it is something that Sunderland lacks.

Instead, we have a confused and disjointed club that stumbled over the appointment of a new head coach and is now once again embroiled in the debate over exactly who owns what of the football club?

It’s a fresh start for the club, it’s been many years now since the club had a real long term vision and also cutting costs at the forefront which has essentially led to a dismemberment of active in almost all departments of the club.

So said Kyril Louis-Dreyfus when he ‘took over’ the football club and apparently walked away from ‘the old regime’, but who this week was pictured at Cheltenham Town alongside Charlie Methven who, to say the least, is anathema to most if not all Sunderland fans and who are considered, rightly or wrongly, along with Stewart Donald, as the architects of the club’s demise.

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The pair’s continued presence whether in their absence as is the case with Donald, or in broad daylight as is clearly the case with Methven, and to some extent Juan Sartori, though he largely eludes the he general opprobrium directed at his two colleagues inevitably led to further anger and bewilderment.

Charlie Methven has a legitimate right to be at games. Whether that’s wise is another question, and I would certainly suggest that over the past fortnight it was clearly reckless, but what it signaled to fans was the question mark of who was making the decisions in the meeting room, despite Kyril Louis-Dreyfus saying the buck does indeed stop with him. Finally, the club admitted who owns what in terms of shares and inevitably that doesn’t sit well with the fans.

This is where the question of leadership arises. A club of Sunderland’s stature and size needs a figurehead. Niall Quinn grasped the concept when he was president, and although his time at the helm was flawed, he was able to mask his mistakes with his ability to recognize that fans need someone to stand up and be there. and vocal. His Bristol masterstroke of flying fans back to Newcastle and paying for taxis is a powerful and enduring example of his authority and command.

Now we have a silent tip. Kristjaan Speakman is the sporting director, but where is the umbrella voice that speaks on behalf of the club as a whole? Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is ostentatious but anonymous. He may not like a public figure, but unfortunately that comes with the job. Sir Bob Murray hated public speaking but respected what was expected of him.

The saga surrounding the appointment of Alex Neil has laid bare the vacuum at the top. It needs to be fixed. This is a football club that we repeatedly say is too big to be in Ligue 1, but repeatedly act like a football club that is Ligue 1 in everything but size.

He needs someone to grab him by the scruff of the neck rather than sink into obscurity. The more the club pretended they could hide behind non-disclosure agreements, the more agitated, angry and frustrated their fans became and eventually gave up.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League

Sunderland need a talisman like Niall Quinn
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

There is great irony that Charlie Methven did just that when he exposed himself to ultimate ridicule on Sunderland till i die when he faced. He was the antithesis of Niall Quinn in many ways, but the one thing they both had in common was the realization that a club of this size needs a talisman.

Unfortunately, Methven was the wrong fit, and now, by association, he’s become a fan misfit.

The club must understand this and not hide its responsibilities to its fans who (owner after owner, have admitted) are the real owners, because without them there is no football club.

Yes, they can peddle spreadsheets, bank balances and talk about administration and liquidation, but would anyone ever let this great football club fall apart?

I do not believe that. It’s at a crossroads.

Fans are rightly sickened that they may have to spend a fifth season in the third tier, but the club have a new head coach ready to work hard to avoid that scenario. The club must also react.

Now is the perfect time to stand up and shout from the rooftops that Sunderland AFC are proud and loud and stop acting like the Wizard of Oz fearing someone is about to pull back the curtain.

Lobby Card for 'The Wizard of Oz'

One without heart, one without courage, one without brain…
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Amanda J. Marsh