Sunderland AFC’s executive director, Charlie Methven, pens his thoughts on the season so far, as we enter the business end of the 2018-19 campaign…
Tonight we welcome Gillingham to the Stadium of Light, as the final run-in begins.
A lot of change has happened at the club since Stewart and I arrived, but entering the business end of the season, we are in a position where all our initial targets can be achieved.
As staff and fans, it’s now up to us to make the most of the opportunities we have fostered, while also making sure we enjoy what promises to be an exciting finale.
There are an awful lot of seasons in football when you are either swimming along in mid-table or fighting against relegation, and neither of those things are particularly enjoyable when it comes to this time of year.
On the flip side, if you are one of those sides fighting for promotion at this stage of the campaign, it very much is enjoyable, and I would really like to see all of us – directors, staff, players and fans – take full advantage of the foundations we have built together in the last eight months.
The challenge that faced us when we first took over was multi-faceted, very large and very urgent.
It wasn’t as easy as simply coming into a club which had been well run on the business side but had challenges on the playing side.
Instead, we came into a club where every element of it, with the possible exception of the academy, was in a state of chaos, flux, or manic perpetual underachievement.
With that in mind, we set realistic targets for our first 12 months.
On the pitch, we needed to provide a competitive team that mirrored the hard-working nature of the city, a team that would be worthy of wearing the shirt, and one that represents the community and what it stands for.
I believe we have achieved that, and as a result we’re on course to finish inside the top six, which is the minimum we set out to do at the start of the season.
Of course, we would all like to avoid any last-minute play-off nerves and achieve automatic promotion via a place in the top two, but considering how far we have come in a short space of time, that would see us surpass our initial goals.
We also set other targets, one of which was to beat the all-time average attendance record in League One, which is no mean feat considering the third tier has been going for over 100 years.
A collection of massive clubs have played in the division, and after more than a century of ups and downs, Manchester City currently hold a record of 28,200.
As it stands, our average attendance is over 31,000, so we’re not only well on our way to shattering that record, but we’re closing in on an average attendance that may never be surpassed by any club, and I mean any club.
However, it’s important we remind ourselves that, just like on the playing side, we haven’t achieved anything yet, and nobody can realise our potential but ourselves.
Our other target was to attract a crowd of more than 40,000, and we achieved that on Boxing Day with a colossal crowd when we faced Bradford City.
Is that enough? No. Can we just sit back? Absolutely not.
We need to use it as a platform to build and set new targets moving forward, starting with our final home game of the season against Portsmouth.
Can we once again surpass the 40,000-mark? Watch this space.
On behalf of everyone at the club, thank you for your continued efforts throughout the season, and thank you for getting on board with what we’re trying to achieve.
Thanks to your efforts, we’re heading into the final 15 games in a position where we can achieve all that we set out to back in May.
But we aren’t there yet, and what we need now is one final collective effort.
Whatever you’ve got left, and whatever you can do to show your support in these final matches, please bring it to the table.
We will only do this together.