Charlie Methven


In the continuing saga of Stewart Donald’s attempt to buy Sunderland AFC,
Monsieur Salut has a minor interest to declare.

Many of you will have seen references to one Charlie Methven, a public relations wizard and a director of Madrox, the company created by Stewart to take over SAFC and – who knows? – make it great again.

He and Monsieur Salut are former colleagues and also got on well when working for the same newspaper.

Matt drew a cartoon for Charlie when he, too, left the Telegraph a year or two before M Salut

I knew nothing of Charlie’s involvement as I sat in the rain on the beach at La Favière in the south of France and fiddled with my mobile so as to listen to Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett’s commentary of Sunderland vs Wolves. On Wearside, Nick B repeatedly informed me, there was blazing sunshine.

Only when I whizzed through Sunday’s post-match tweets did I come across this reference by the Chronicle’s SAFC chronicler, James Hunter ….

— James Hunter (@JHunterChron) May 6, 2018

As an indirect result of that discovery at Twitter, I do know a little more about what the world may look like under Madrox, though what I can say is limited.

No new manager has been appointed, “pending” EFL approval of the takeover, but three people – broadly the names that have attracted most speculation – are on the shortlist and have, as we have seen, been careful not to rule themselves out. Make of that what you will.

Supporters can be assured that in Donald’s hands, Sunderland would have comfortably the highest wages budget in League One. They cannot be assured that all of the players they would wish to stay at the Stadium of Light would actually do so. If a 20-goals-a-season striker at third tier level costs six times less than – how shall I put this? – someone much sought after elsewhere and therefore highly marketable, you can guess which one is more likely to be playing for SAFC next season.

There will be root and branch reform of the club, the aim being to eliminate waste (and wasters). Every effort will be made to tap into the “fabulous fan base” in a city (and wider catchment area) where, perhaps more than any other in England, football dominates everyday life.

What brought Charlie, the suave Old Etonian and M Salut, an oik from a County Durham comprehensive, together? This is of much less interest to Sunderland supporters but I shall give an outline all the same.

We both, for a protracted spell, took Conrad Black’s Canadian dollar and worked for The Daily Telegraph together. I was a reporter, he edited “Peterborough”, a disrespectfully witty diary column (one of many good things about the Telegraph to be done away with in recent times). Perhaps surprisingly, Charlie was also a combative trade union shop steward – “father of the National Union of Journalists chapel”, as office branches are called in journalism – and was enthusiastic about taking on Black and his management on behalf of colleagues.

Ever anxious to snoop, I asked around. Other former Telegraph colleagues responded when I asked for help in writing something at this “tinpot but literate fan site”. I said I remembered Charlie “as a good lad, as they’d say in the North East, though I hadn’t seen him since we had drinks in a Gibraltar bar many moons ago while covering a story”.

Let my confrères and consoeurs take up the story:

* I remember him losing a £50 bet over which party Murdoch’s Sun would support in an election… but paying up promptly. This was when he was at the Peterborough column at the Telegraph. Although he was in charge there when the decision was taken to give up the name of that column, I think. And then the Mail nicked it and copyrighted it. Duh!

* I think his ridiculous hair
(gel long after the 80s), perma tan, coloured socks and Gucci loafers, all worn apparently with no sense of irony, were quite memorable. And the fact that his Etonian accent gave way to a strong =Oxfordshire burr “in drink” was also quite something to behold .. loved Charlie.

* My memory is that he was a fervent fan of Oxford United; he certainly had a lot of anti-Swindon chants at his disposal. I have fond memories of him, especially in his casting-against-type work as FOC [union leader] at the Telegraph when the NUJ was fighting Conrad. And he was a good hack, albeit he could be abrasive in style sometimes.

* We used to have fabulous stand-up rows at work … he was in red socks and pinstripe suits in his mid-to-late 20s, so makes me laugh thinking of him being involved in football!

* He dresses more conservatively these days

Better than all of that by a mile, as far as we and our narrow SAFC interests are concerned, is the view of our friend Paul “Sobs” Dobson, who when not writing compellingly as assistant editor of ALS pops up here a lot, leaving pithy comments or judging the Who are You? awards. Paul travels with the SAFCSA Durham branch and is rarely absent from a game home or away.

When I mentioned at Facebook that Charlie had never once, when we worked togther, mentioned a future plan to save my football club, Sobs replied: “Met him on Wednesday. Knows his football.”

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

7 Responses to “Red socks, pinstripes, fighting the bosses. Who is the Charlie Methven in SAFC takeover?” Subscribe

  1. Drummer May 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    Who’d have thunk it , Salut! may have a direct line of communication to the new owners .

  2. malcolm May 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm #

    I hope the preference for red socks and pinstripes doesn’t mean we will be lumbered with last season’s kit for another year!

  3. Neil May 9, 2018 at 4:50 pm #

    PR types are an odd bunch…think Alistair Campell vs David Cameron vs Max Clifford. Always good for a bevvy. Tend towards being bonkers. Quite a few public school types. None of this matters of course. The marketing of Safc is simple. Put out a team that starts winning and the crowds will return. Don’t need a PhD to work that out….not even a guru and i can predict that with some confidence. Look at it this way, after arguably the 2nd poorest season in our history, 28000 souls turned out on Saturday. It’s a marketer’s dream gig

    • William C May 9, 2018 at 10:29 pm #

      Well said – you know your PR people.

  4. KevS May 10, 2018 at 1:28 pm #

    I read somewhere that Methven has/had a massive admiration for M.Thatcher. If I was him I’d try and keep that in the background if he doesn’t want to immediately alienate himself from at least 90% of our fans.

  5. salutsunderland May 10, 2018 at 5:44 pm #

    My guess, KevS, is that most people at the high-earning level of football either are Tories or become them. It oozes from the lips of Alan Brazil whenever I hear him stray from footie talk.

    I don’t remember Charlie’s views when we worked together – oddly enough, despite the DT’s allegiance, almost every reporter/sub-editor was either Labour or at least whatever LibDem was then – but people in the parts of the paper where he worked were, shall we say, more on message.

    • KevS May 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

      I think we could be in for some real inside information with your connections here Mr Salut !

      I suppose it’s inevitable with the money involved these days that owners of clubs are invariably going to be capitalists and probably Tories. I don’t suppose Ellis Short, had he been British, would have been a staunch Socialist. We didn’t whinge much when he was appointed and none of this will matter if things go well on the field. If they go desperately badly, however, (and this is Sunderland so a fair chance of that) then this sort of thing could surface a bit more.

      Speaking of “people at the high-earning level of football” as you put it ……………. I wonder what Jack Rodwell’s political beliefs are ?

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