SUNDERLAND’S chief operating officer is confident the future is bright under Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, and claims the new owner’s decision to base himself on Wearside underlines the depth of his commitment to the Black Cats.
Steve Davison was heavily involved in the negotiations that resulted in Louis-Dreyfus securing a majority shareholding in Sunderland, having first been introduced to the Swiss trust-fund heir by former board member Charlie Methven.
Since completing his buyout at the end of last year, Louis-Dreyfus has moved to the North-East and is currently understood to be basing himself at a small property on Sunderland’s Academy of Light training ground as he gets to grips with the challenges of overhauling his new enterprise.
Davison is confident the 23-year-old is in it for the long haul, and is looking forward to working with Louis-Dreyfus to help implement a series of important long-term changes over the next few months and years.
“You can imagine there have been a lot of opportunities for Kyril to buy football clubs,” said Davison, a boyhood Sunderland fan, in an interview with North East Times magazine. “I told him Sunderland is the perfect club to buy, although I would say that of course.
“He has based himself here now – that was a challenge with a pandemic – but he has based himself in the area with his fiance and they are working here at the club for many days a week and he is very hands-on, he is great.
“He really is a very enthusiastic young man. He wants to see progress, he is desperate for improvement but he has a good balance between pragmatism and impatience, I think – which he will need plenty of both.
“He has been a real pleasure to work with, actually. And, of course, we have Kristjaan (Speakman), who was joined a sporting director, and the three of us are quite aligned in our thought process, which is not to say we don’t have good debates about what we’re going to do but that has been a real positive thing.”
Buying a football club at any time can be a tortuous project, but trying to complete a deal in the face of a global health pandemic threw up some unique challenges over the course of the last 12 months.
“The takeover did drag on for a long time,” said Davison. “But there were quite a few reasons why, and the most significant one is obviously the pandemic. It was literally a deal that was done on Zoom.
“There were three existing owners, which means you are dealing with three people, and Kyril couldn’t meet them in person, so everything had to be done online. Kyril didn’t meet Stewart (Donald) until a few weeks ago at the game at Northampton. They never actually met in person during the whole time we were negotiating. It is to everybody’s credit who was involved in the takeover that we actually did manage to conclude a deal.”
Since taking over, Louis-Dreyfus has already overseen a major overhaul of Sunderland’s academy staff, and having watched a succession of highly-rated youngsters leave Wearside in the last few hours, there is a strong determination to halt the exodus the homegrown talent.
“It was heart-breaking (to see so many young players leave),” said Davison. “That won’t be allowed to happen again. ”