Martin Bain hasn’t had much to smile about since he took over the reins at Sunderland last summer, but, sat at his desk on Thursday evening, he allowed himself a small chuckle.
An anonymous Twitter post claimed a German takeover had been sealed and Bain had been replaced by former Black Cats star Stefan Schwarz as chief executive.
If he had, it was news to him.
It was a rare moment of light relief for Bain. His Stadium of Light office, on the occasions like this week when he hasn’t been dotting all over the country, has been a serious place of late.
The club faces a huge period of uncertainty. Managerless and with owner Ellis Short in negotiations over selling up, it can seem as if everything is on hold.
Not so for Bain, however.
Social media speculation and internet forum furore has been rife over the last few weeks, going into overdrive in the last few days as takeover talk has intensified.
But Bain has tried to ignore the gossip and instead focus on getting Sunderland as stable as possible behind the scenes so that, whatever happens, the club has the best chance of prospering when the new season kicks off.
The failure to so far land a manager, after talks with Derek McInnes broke down, saw the former Rangers chief take a battering among fans. Twenty-four hours later the club released a statement saying a decision on appointing a new boss was being suspended while Short concluded his takeover negotiations.
Bain, however, has been charged with putting together a list of managerial targets should a deal for the club not go through.
A reworked shortlist is in place, with Simon Grayson still the bookies favourite, and the Echo understands that Bain is maneuvering into a position to strike quickly should talks with a German consortium collapse, with plans already in place following a series of behind-closed-doors meetings.
It’s not just on the manager front, however, that Bain is looking to make inroads. Having inherited something of a mess when he took over 12 months ago, an intrinsic look at the way the playing staff has been put together has been under way the last six months, with further work being done in recent weeks.
An ageing squad on big money, along with a lot of players out of contract at the same time, there has been plenty for him to get his teeth sunk into.
Bain has been working through the contracts of the squad, dealing with agents and looking to ease the financial burden on the club after relegation.
The Jermain Defoe contract clause is believed to be one particular gripe for the Scot, who believes missing out on a transfer fee for the England striker this summer represented awful business by the previous regime.
The primary area identified by Bain, however, has been player trading – particularly the lack of profit made by Sunderland in recent transfers.
Back in December, he told the Echo: “46 players coming and going since 2009 and only three we have made a profit on is not a statistic that anybody can be proud of.”
Since then, Sunderland have sold two players – Jordan Pickford and Patrick van Aanholt – for a combined fee of £44million, both deals negotiated by Bain.
And with more departures to come before the end of the summer – Jeremain Lens, Fabio Borini, Lamine Kone and more – he will hope to squeeze as much money out of buying clubs so that whoever is the new manager will have as big a budget as possible to replace them.