Sunderland are a vastly improved outfit on the field of play, leading a strong promotion charge by losing just one of their last 15 matches in League One.
Though, there is at least positive news when it comes to Tony Coton, the Head of Recruitment, and David Jones.
The latter, a lifelong fan of Sunderland, was appointed as a non-executive director last year and has been ordered to offer advice and support on the football side of the business.
He already has rather detailed plans too, specifically for the club’s recruitment: “I believe there is huge value in building a modern recruitment system, as we did at Oxford, employing specialist analysts to use the infinite data that’s now readily available, to work alongside the scouting team that Tony Coton is building,” he commented last week.
This an eye-catching strategy, but one that doesn’t come without its own challenges, something that Jones recognises: “It’s such a competitive market and everyone is trying to outsmart each other to identify the best young talent with sell on value; investing in recruitment is the most sensible to develop a football club that doesn’t want to rely on single-owner investment.”
Though, the biggest warning came in terms of selling players. Jones added: “You have to get the balance right of course, selling too many players will limit your on field progress and ambitions.”
It’s all well and good planning for the future, especially for a club who has been left wanting in the transfer window – signing free transfers and loanees in January – but there is a bigger problem at play here; Donald himself.
If he remains at the club then it’s difficult to see much investment actually happening. Besides the £4m acquisition of Will Grigg in January 2019, there has been a lack of effort from the current owner to provide sufficient funds to the managerial team.
He promised last month that money would be made available but there was a distinct lack of spending from Phil Parkinson.
One has to wonder what’s happened to all of the revenue Sunderland received in the 2018 transfer window after they were relegated to League One.
Via Transfermarkt, Sunderland’s income was over £23m during the 2018/19 season. Meanwhile, they spent just over £4m on incomings. A year on and the only fee they spent on a player was for George Dobson. That’s despite selling Josh Maja for £3.5m.
Of course, the Mackems have to oblige to profit and sustainability but recruitment is a place that’s been left rather dry in terms of spending.
Jones suggests that Sunderland are looking to outsmart the market and while they may be able to do that, they’ll need far greater investment than in previous seasons.
Promotion to the Championship would certainly help but Donald’s history at the club suggests Jones could struggle to achieve his primary aim.
In other Sunderland news, Stewart Donald should only have ONE CANDIDATE in mind when selling…