With the Mark Campbell takeover taking longer than expected Stewart Donald has been speaking to the press to calm people’s nerves…
Where does that [missing out on promotion] leave the club for next season?
SD: For me personally, I’ve presided over the worst-ever finish for Sunderland so I need to make sure that’s not something I don’t fix. Everyone is talking about the finances and the investment - we are in absolutely fantastic financial shape for the next couple of years. We’ve got these parachute payments left now, so we’ll be having a right old go this year.
Are you staying on as owner, Stewart?
SD: I’ll definitely stay on. There’s talks on investment and we’re talking to people, there’s no secret about that. Of course, you get all these ‘I’m only keeping 10 per cent’ and ‘it’ll be done in the middle of June’ and it’s all just paper talk. The reality of it is that I’ll definitely be staying for years and years, I hope. I can’t see any reason not to, and what I’m trying to do is make sure I’ve got - not to the detriment of Sunderland - the biggest shareholding I possibly can so that I can try, which I hope the fans want, to keep the club with the same transparency and focus that I believe the Sunderland fans want. The challenge for us is not in the short-term, which I know everyone is focusing on financially. The short-term challenge is to get the club promotion. The long-term challenge is to make us financially viable and that we can then go into the Premier League. So, the investment is long-term, promotion is short-term. Will the investment come in really quickly? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.
When we were there that day [at Wembley] there were five different investors in the room, so people are pouring forward to throw money at the club. So we shouldn’t be too surprised if someone comes in and becomes majority shareholder above you?
SD: The difficulty is that if you want a large chunk of investment, then you’ve got to give up a decent part of the club - and of course people want to have their say. This isn’t about getting top dollar and selling to an American billionaire. The reason this will take a bit of time, is because the people I want in the club, I want to make sure they’ve got the right vision, they tick all the boxes. So you do the due diligence on the numbers, but I’m having dinner with these people, lunch with them, getting to meet their families and this, that and the other, to make sure that if I do something, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
Would those negotiations have been a little easier had we achieved promotion?
SD: No, they would have probably been harder. I haven’t asked in any of the negotiations, I’m not interested in getting any more money if we go up to the Championship because that money has got to be invested in the team. If we go into the Championship, what it probably means in the short-term is that to keep the momentum you really have to try and have a go. So that probably means I need to chuck in a bit more money and then I’ve got a year of doing that, but this way I’ve got longer because I’ve probably got two years.
Jack Ross takes you forward though Stewart, does he?
SD: I hope so! We’re placing a lot of trust in him, and faith, and I think it’s well-placed. I got what people will say on face value. If you play Football Manager, you look at the size of the budget and we should walk the league. But it’s not quite like that, there’s a lot behind the scenes. He didn’t have a lot to work with at the start and there was quite a lot of turmoil. We’re more settled and now what we’ve got to do is make sure that these six or eight signings improve our team. That’s the key, because if we get six or eight improved players on what we’ve got, we’ve got to get another ten, fifteen points and we’re there. It’s all about making sure these guys are the right ones.
This two-year process you had of getting back to the Championship, everyone is crossing their fingers hoping it happens but it’s not a given, is it?
SD: No. There’s more pressure and you felt that last year. You know what it’s like, the fans are fantastic and they deserve a team that could easily be able to do that. But they’re good football people and they understand the year. I think, understandably, they won’t be as patient this year and that’s why at this stage, there’s a little bit more panic about signings and what’s going to happen with the investment. But the reality of it is that we’re in cracking shape, as long as we get these signings right.