Charlie Methven expects Sunderland AFC to be sold by the ‘end of May’ despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The 43-year-old former director spoke exclusively to RadioTimes.com ahead of the release of Netflix docu-series Sunderland ‘Til I Die Season 2 on 1st April.
In the first part of our interview series, Methven revealed his thoughts on the documentary, his regrets and his relationship with chairman Stewart Donald, but has now provided an update on the current situation at the club, as well as more details on the progress of the club’s sale.
He said: “The discussion about the future of the club is ongoing and while recent events have slowed it down a little bit obviously because people have got other things to deal with in day-to-day businesses and day-to-day lives, it hasn’t really had – as yet – a material impact.
“Anyone who is going to be buying Sunderland football club from us is someone who is buying it for the long term, not the next two months, three months, whatever it might be.
“As things stand right now, there are well-progressed and productive discussions taking place with potential new owners of the club and Stewart has always said he hopes to have that issue sorted by the end of this season. That’s our aim and it’s not entirely in our control.
“The people who are in discussions have to make their own decisions as to whether they want to do it or not, just as we did two years ago. Us buying the club wasn’t in Ellis Short’s control, that had to ultimately be in our control.
“As things stand here right now we still believe the club will be in new hands by the end of May.”
Despite a surge of positivity ignited by Methven and Donald’s arrival at the club in 2018, there has been a growing disconnect between the board and fans since the events of STID Season 2.
Despite the turmoil, Methven has aired a message of ‘love and thanks’ to Sunderland fans ahead of the documentary release.
“Just huge gratitude for the support that we were shown when we asked for everyone to group together and get together to save their club.
“Ultimately, whatever some people might think, that club is now turned around, and that club has been turned around by Sunderland fans.
“If Sunderland fans hadn’t turned up to watch their team, if they hadn’t gone out to buy the jerseys, hadn’t shown the support they have shown then the club would’ve been in a really bad place.
“When we put the call out saying ‘please come and help us save your club’ they answered that call. You just can’t say fairer than that.
“If, since then, they’ve been critical of decisions we’ve made, things we’ve said or whatever it might be, that’s understandable, they’ve got high standards for their club. They want their club to be progressing on the pitch, not just off it, and I totally understand that. Stewart and I are the same with Oxford which is our club.
“We totally, totally get it and all we can say all along is that we really, really are trying and everybody at the club is trying. It’s no longer a place with people who don’t care or don’t want to be there. It’s a place with coaches and directors and players who really have and are giving heart and soul to it, and it will come right.
“It absolutely, definitely will come right now that they, the Sunderland fans, have actually turned their own club around.”
The League One season is in a state of limbo as the COVID-19 outbreak decimated the sporting calendar, and while there are clearly more pressing issues in the world right now, Methven is hopeful the season will resume and the club can push forward.
“[The fans] will be rewarded for it, hopefully this season.
“We’re still right in the thick of it, three points off the automatic promotion places.
“If not, it’ll happen sooner rather than later because the club’s just too good, too big and now too stable not to eventually succeed.”
Methven claims that while the club remains in the troubled waters of League One, the plan to restore Sunderland’s place higher up the Football League food chain remains on course.
“The main aim of what we were trying to do was try to turn it around and get the club straight again, the case now is that the club is debt-free, cashflow positive and in a good position.
“As a fan you’re primarily focused on ‘did we win last weekend? Are we going to win this weekend?’ but fundamentally, if a club is in a sound place, the football will come, and it always does come in the end.
“When you’re in difficulty, when you’re living hand to mouth, week to week, not sure whether the football club is going to survive, that is where Sunderland have been for some time.
“The fact that it’s now in a place where the biggest discussions are ‘has the board made the right decision on the manager? Has the manager made the right decision on the players? Have the players made the right decisions on the pitch?’ that’s a much more healthy place for a football club to be in than a place where every single week the national, local and fan media are saying ‘are we going into administration here?’
“We felt it was worth taking the risk to get the club back on its feet so it could compete again.
“In that season in the Championship, the club just wasn’t in a place to compete, it was such a mess that managers, whether that be Simon Grayson or Chris Coleman, both of them are good managers, weren’t really in a position where they could plan, sign players, didn’t know whether players were going to be there much longer and the whole thing was just not in a good place.
“Now obviously, if those two last minute moments at Wembley had gone the other way, everyone would turn around now and say that was a huge success and unfortunately that didn’t happen. Sunderland is going to come good again because now the fundamentals of the business are right. It has the appropriate structure for a club that is outside of the Premier League now, which it didn’t before.
“It’s only a matter of time before a group of players do become successful and push on from there and everyone will look back at its darkest days and say ‘you know what, that was as bad as it got’ and from then on gradually we’ve pushed on.”