Charlie Methven has spoken out ahead of the launch of Sunderland ‘Til I Die Season 2.
In the first of an exclusive two-part interview series with RadioTimes.com, Methven discusses how accurately the new series portrays events from the Black Cats’ 2018/19 season, as well as revealing his regrets from the ill-fated campaign.
The second run of the popular Netflix docu-series contains six new episodes and will be available on the streaming service from 1st April 2020.
Methven – who was a director at Sunderland during the events of Season 2 after taking over the club with Stewart Donald – has since stepped down from the board, but retains a stake in the Wearside outfit.
Season 1 of the hit Netflix series ended with the arrival of Methven and Donald bringing about a new hope and optimism to the beleaguered club, a vibe that is captured in Season 2 before the campaign begins to unravel.
Methven insists what fans will see is an accurate reflection of how events transpired.
He said: “It’s a fair portrayal but it’s a heavily dramatised one because there are thousands of hours of boring meetings where nothing much happened, just getting on with life. Among that [Fulwell73] have found bits that they feel told a broader overall story and that overall story is largely true.
“I hate even hearing my voice let alone seeing my face which makes it not a particularly pleasant experience, generally speaking.
“There are things in there which you think you’d rather not be in there, and other things where you think ‘I’m glad I did that’. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth with these things.
“This isn’t a carefully polished corporate advertisement for Sunderland, this is intended to be an accurate depiction of the inside running of a large football club.
“I’m a great believer that when you go into these things, you have to have an understanding of what the different outcomes might be.”
In short, Sunderland entered 2018/19 in tumultuous fashion before quickly clawing their way into a promotion battle.
However, a disappointing second half of the campaign saw the Black Cats run out of steam and lost the play-off final to Charlton thanks to a last-gasp 94th-minute heartbreaker at Wembley.
Methven said: “The reality of the situation that club found itself in at that point, to say promotion wasn’t a given would be to understate things significantly. It was always going to be a huge challenge.
“To all of us, fans, players, directors, because we had a very good start, very unexpectedly, that took us into a different place psychologically, mentally, where we started to dream what we thought was not impossible but maybe implausible – that we would simultaneously turn around the finances of the club and get promoted.
“That would have been the dream outcome, and history will relay we came extremely close to that but didn’t quite pull it off.
“Fundamentally, it was always meant to be a two-year project to get the finances sorted and get things right on the playing side as well.”
Methven has no regrets about wading into Sunderland’s quagmire situation, but explained that he continues to rue the missed opportunity of promotion at the first chance of asking.
The 43-year-old worked behind the scenes during a fateful 2019 January transfer window that went on to shape the Wearside club’s season, with a League One record transfer for Will Grigg backfiring spectacularly.
Methven admits the club didn’t capitalise on their position.
“Crikey, on a tactical basis there are any number of things I wish I’d done differently, said differently, been differently, I could be here all night.
“You’ve got hundreds of decisions to make and some of those decisions, both that I made on a personal basis but also the owners and board on a collective basis turned out to be the wrong decisions.
“Every club, every single season makes incorrect decisions, the question is whether they really come back to bite you in the end.
“As a club, we got ourselves into a position by January, a much stronger position than we thought we would be to get promoted, and we made a decision as a board to commit to the January transfer window, to make funds available, and for whatever reason, that January transfer window didn’t go our way.”
When asked if he was referring specifically to the Grigg deal, Methven remained cautious: “I think you have to look at it more macro than that.
“We started January third in the league, very close to the automatic promotion places and we knew our nearest rivals weren’t in a position to spend any money, and we knew we were in that position.
“The unravelling of the season, from that moment of actual relative stability and belief is obviously a massive regret.
“It was there, it was absolutely there to be achieved, and we didn’t quite achieve it. That still hurts now, that day, that play-off final at Wembley, that still hurts now.”
Since that fateful day at the national stadium, the once-amicable relationship between the board and fans has soured.
Fans were left shattered by the defeat, it was a sucker punch that took the wind out of Wearside, and in late 2019, protests were organised against the ownership over a perceived lack of direction at the club.
However, despite the increasingly strained relationship between the top brass and the punters, Methven spoke of his admiration for his friend Donald and believes many haven’t given him credit for the work he has done at the club.
“One of the nicest things has been throughout the two years we’ve been effectively in business together, is that we both got things right and got things wrong in that time but that has always remained a respectful, friendship-led relationship and we’ve never let any minor professional disagreements get in the way of really being friends.
“I’ve got so much time for Stewart, he’s such a lovely guy with such honourable intentions and huge energy. I think the work that he did on really getting to grips with the cost base of the club will probably never be understood or recognised.
“It’s a job which other people ran a million miles away from and he was the one to put his money in, roll his sleeves up and believe that he had the business skills to get that cost base turned around.
“I’ve got so much respect for his boldness in doing that, risking his money, his time, his emotional effort on doing that. It’s really a fantastic thing.”
PART II: Charlie Methven on the current state of Sunderland AFC, when the club will be sold, and a big message for the fans