Now a regular feature of ALS is gathering up some of our regular writers and getting their views on the same subject by putting the exact same question to each of them. This week, we bring the views of Sobs, Michael Conroy and Thomas Thornton.
Is the game against Joey Barton's Fleetwood a must win game for Phil Parkinson and what should happen if we don't?
Sobs doesn't think it's a must win game for Parky as he could be on his way out with the potential new owners arriving anyway, "No, because even Sunderland aren’t daft enough to sack a manager with a takeover imminent (he said hopefully),having to pay him off then quite possibly having to pay off whoever takes his place if he or she doesn’t fit the plans of the new owners. Unless we’re prepared to put Bally in temporary charge again and wait for the new owners to appoint their own manager, that is. If there was no takeover in the pipeline, then the game might possibly be Parky’s last stand, as, while 8th isn’t a crisis, it isn’t good enough either. Also, who would make the decision to sack the manager? The majority shareholder isn’t doing any running of the club, having basically handed it over to Jim Rodwell, and I can’t see him making such a big decision."
Michael Conroy thinks failing to win against Fleetwood may leave us playing catch up to everyone else, "Depends on your perspective really. As a Sunderland fan it is definitely a must win game. If we don't win against Fleetwood then we run the risk of standing in the dust of the automatic spots. I know the points gap isn't huge at the moment but, psychologically, we need to be keeping in touch with the pack so in that respect yes it's a must win game. Whether it's a must win game for Parkinson is debatable, these are strange times. The takeover chatter has left us in limbo really which is unhealthy to say the least. If we were to lose then the vitriol would understandably worsen against Parkinson. That said, it's easy for those in charge to ignore the vitriol when it's played out on social media or blogs or podcasts. If the takeover is due to happen then it is hugely unlikely that there will be a quick sacking unless the ink is drying on the exchange documents as we speak. From Parkinson's perspective he's probably happy to sit it out, we're in tier three for at least a couple more weeks and so the 2,000 fans who would have been allowed to go to the match can't vent at him. From the current ownership's perspective it's becoming an accepted truth that they just don't give a shit. Even if the takeover was happening this Saturday the result, in my opinion, would be the same for Parky win, lose or draw. So in that respect it isn't a must win for him."
Thomas Thornton reckons most games for the foreseeable are must win games, "I think that no matter who this game is against, for the sake of the club, rather than the manager, we need to win. I know we're in 8th place at the moment but we need to start winning some games, we've given away cheap points recently and there are massive improvements to be made. Joey Barton would of course to be the guy who throws a spanner in the works but to be honest, I couldn't care less about who we are playing or who their manager is, I just care that we are slowly slipping and we need to change our fortunes around pronto. I think no matter who the new owners are, providing we are actually bought out, then I would suspect Parky will have had his chips anyway, regardless of this game. Not many people wanted the guy in the first place and his track record wasn't exactly impressive, he was the cheap option after all and I cannot see too many people disappointed to see the back of him."
Out of the three potential buyers (Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, William Storey and Matthew Pauls) who would you like to purchase the club and who is the most credible buyer?
Sobs reckons that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is the best option for the takeover of the Lads and doesn't think Storey is a serious contender, "Of the three potential buyers, I’ll discount William Storey simply because there’s more than a hint of Michael Knighton about him. His fortune of 'over £100 million' seems to be purely on paper – and I don’t mean banknotes. Matthew Pauls is a more recent member of the takeover club, but the words 'hedge fund management' strike fear into my heart, and anyway, the club says they’ve not had proof of funds from him. Mr Louis-Dreyfus seems to be the most plausible of the three for several reasons. Firstly, he has experience with a football club through the family connections with Marseille, where their ownership “model” transformed the club, and Belgian side Standard Liege. He’s also partnered with Juan Sartori, so will have had whatever information the Uruguayan has shared… and he’s got loads more money than the other two interested parties. He’s also provided proof of funds, so therefore he’s the most credible of the three and thus my preferred option."
Michael Conroy thinks there are negatives about all three potential buyers and is holding out to see how talks progress, "It's got to be William Storey right? I mean just because nobody I know has actually seen his energy drink and he had a falling out with the last sports team he got involved with everybody seems to be doubting his credibility. If you read his tweets though he is doing a grand job of googling stuff about Sunderland to regurgitate. Then there's the fact that he was wearing an old Sunderland shirt in all the photos which just shows how long he's been a MLF. No? You're not with me on this? In all seriousness, I'm massively undecided on the Marseille connection. I keep reading good stuff about Kyril but I wonder if there is any substance to it. Beyond that I wonder how much he is going to buy into the project. Another thing that has come out in everything written about him is his love for Marseille and his ambitions to run that club one day. If it was me and it was the other way round I'd be keeping my fortune safe while running Marseille and saving the spending for when I took over at Sunderland. I may be wrong, perhaps he'll fall in love with the club and forget who Marseille ever were, but I'm not comfortable with our club being used as an apprenticeship for the big job to be honest. Sartori's involvement continues to baffle me given he talked of Uruguayan connections from the outset but we are yet to see any evidence of progress on that front. If anything we have regressed, where has he been all this time? Courting the Uruguayan Parliament mostly. That's fine if that's what he wants to do, I have no issue with this. Right now though we need commitment at Sunderland and if you're distracted elsewhere then you aren't the man for the job. As for Matthew Pauls, I've largely ignored that. There's no bid on the table, there's been no due diligence done. There may have been some talks held I don't know. If it transpires that Pauls is serious then the takeover timetable moves significantly and in the meantime we're rotting in this division. For me, which of those do you pick? They all have their negatives."
Thomas Thornton thinks that the 22 year old Kyril Louis-Dreyfus would be best to purchase Sunderland, "I mean I have reservations about all of them but I honestly cannot take William Storey seriously, he seems an even bigger chancer than Stewart Donald! Yes Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is only 22 years old but let's be honest he's the most serious out of the three, after all Matthew Pauls has only just came into the frame and nobody really knows who he is or whether he even has the finances. It would mean Juan Sartori would still be involved if Kyril did take over, but at the end of the day, all three Sartori, Donald and Methven are retaining their shares or some of their shares in the club regardless of who buys the club."
What are your thoughts on Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Juan Sartori wanting to build a 'global football empire' which would include SAFC?
Sobs is taking these claims with a pinch of salt to say the least, "As for Sunderland being part of a sporting empire, I’m not bothered as long as we don’t become a feeder club for somewhere 'bigger' – I want us to become one of the clubs that are being fed. This might sound hypocritical, but I’m biased. They should also take a look at what John Hall failed to achieve with his sporting empire, which has basically ended up being just the mags as the basketball, the ice hockey etc. etc. have fallen by the wayside. It could be a good way of generating income, and pre-season tours are an obvious potential benefit as well – if it goes ahead, please buy an Irish club as well! Mind, we’ve had mention of this sort of thing appear in the past without anything coming of it."
Michael Conroy thinks that whoever buys us should focus on getting us out of this division, "The idea of a sporting empire is not unheard of, in fact there is precedent with the former owners of a club not far from us with rugby and football and (I think) ice hockey all rolled up into the Newcastle sporting club at one time. Look, I have nothing against that as an idea but for me it smacks of Dortmund model pt. II. An optimistic vision when there is hard graft to be done first. Almost like getting your garden landscaped when your toilet has a busted flush. Yes every project should have a long term ambition but I'm far more interested in how they get us out of this god awful league and back to being what this club is set up to be. Premier League furniture."
Thomas Thornton couldn't care less what they do, as long as they invest in the club, put the fans first and get us out of League 1, "I couldn't really care less what their plans are for us, as long as there's no franchising, the fans are put first (for a change), we eventually get out of this bloody division and we actually see some meaningful investment in our club. Plenty other clubs are owned by people who have several teams in their portfolio, for example Manchester City's billionaire owners, The Abu Dhabi United Group, led by Sheikh Mansour, own all Man City, New York City (USA), Melbourne City (Australia), Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan), Montevideo City Torque (Uruguay), Girona (Spain), Troyes (France), Sichuan Jiuniu (China) and Mumbai City (India) so it can be done successfully, obviously they have a significantly greater wealth than our friends who are planning on buying us! My point is though, several clubs have feeder clubs in other nations and continents and that cannot be a bad idea, we need to switch our strategy up in my eyes and why not give this a go?!"