I’ve just watched season 2 of STID today. We all know the outcome. We all know the twists and turns. We all know it ended in typical Sunderland style. The media build up to the series release was all about how it focused more on the owners and told the story of Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven. This initially had me worried, as I loved the way series 1 showcased the passion of the fans and you got a real feel of the heartbeat of the city and what the club meat to us. Many media reports after series 1, and comments of fans around the country, relayed how well our fans came across, and how much they enjoyed watching a ‘fan focused’ series. Over to series 2 then. Sure enough, Methven and Donald are heavily featured. From the start, Methven comes across as the hard-nosed PR man who thinks he has all the answers. He thinks he knows what has gone wrong over the years and how it all needs to be fixed. He sells himself as the man to put it all right and begins with a rousing speech that appears to be focused on giving a kick up the backside to existing staff, he feels need to do more going forward. He even knows what music needs to be played to get the fans hyped up for a game at the SOL (and how loud to play it). As the series goes on, it seems clear Methven is out of place in his new environment. He (correctly) identifies the need for a cultural and business change throughout the club but, in my opinion, is overly ruthless and alienates existing staff from the outset. You only have to look at their expressions to see they’re not buying into him as a person or his ideas and have immediately switched off. It’s pretty clear they are just putting up him as politely as possible. Donald also seems out of his depth, but in a different way. He generally comes across meaning well as the passionate (if naïve) southerner who can’t quite believe he’s ended up owning Sunderland AFC. It’s always easy to judge in hindsight, but the way he handled the Maja situation may well have defined our season. He then caves in to Wigan and coughs up £3m for Will Grigg after they realized he had put all his eggs in one basket. At the end of the day, leaders need specialists to assist them. Many would argue he’d brought in his mates as those specialists, rather than investing in more proven and experienced people suited to the requirements of what Sunderland AFC needed. Were Richard Hill, Neil Fox and Tony Coton good enough to give Donald the level assistance required?
The Maja saga is a big storyline; to the point most of the match clips before he leaves are of Maja goals. In conversation with Maja. the camera focuses on his awkwardness when being asked if he intends to sign a new contract. Most of us will never know the real ins and outs of that one. Was Maja set on a move no matter what, or did Donald not have the nouse to realise he was better off paying a proven scorer in the side what he wanted instead of paying over the odds and gambling with a replacement in the January window? Jack Ross speaks well throughout and came he across as extremely likeable to me. His general intelligence and promise as a young manager is clear for all to see. Most of us would probably agree his inexperience of League 1 (and of English football) ultimately contributed to our failure. There were certainly questions to be answered about his tactics. Whether he had appropriate backup from management and suitable recruitment of other key staff within the club are another matter. In summary, I came away feeling disappointed with the way Netflix edited this series. Series 1 was good for the soul and showed what Sunderland fans are all about. Series 2 was overly focused on Methven and (to a lesser degree) Donald. It left me with a negative feel as a Sunderland fan. I’m not convinced series 2 will do anything for us as a club, and don’t think it will please other Sunderland fans.