Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson lifts the lid on a Zoom call with Kyril Louis-Dreyfus that changed everything

Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson has revealed he had major doubts about the club’s new owner.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 10:18 am
Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson looks on during the Sky Bet League One match between Northampton Town and Sunderland at PTS Academy Stadium on January 2, 2021.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus – son of former Olympique de Marseille owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus – was confirmed as Sunderland’s new owner and controlling shareholder in February after the EFL sanctioned his takeover of the club.

The buy-out signalled an end to the disastrous ownership of Stewart Donald, which produced fan unrest surrounding redundancies, young players leaving the club and a failure to win promotion into the Championship.

However, Black Cats boss Johnson has revealed he initially had doubts about the 23-year-old Louis-Dreyfus’ intentions for the club.

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Speaking to Football Focus, Johnson said: “When the Sunderland job came up you think, ‘That’s a fantastic job’.

"And then you hear there’s a potential 23-year-old new owner and you go, ‘No chance!’

“I was just fearful that it was going to become a toy and not the correct way to run a club. However, when I spoke to him on Zoom, I was absolutely blown away.

“And then when I thought about it, I’d had a front-row seat at football management watching my dad be a manager. And he [KLD] has obviously had a front-row seat in ownership.

“The club sells itself as any manager will tell you. To be able to try and resurrect a massive club is always a dream. So, therefore, you’ve got to make sure the people in charge are very very good.”

Sunderland take on Tranmere Rovers in the Papa John’s Trophy final on Sunday, with the club looking to end a Wembley hoodoo that dates back to 1973.

The North East club haven’t won at the national stadium in 48-years, since that stunning upset FA Cup final win against Leeds United.

But will Johnson allow talk of the hoodoo to enter his players' mindset ahead of the clash?

“I’m sorry but no I won’t. I’m coming into this fresh and so are a lot of the players. Of course, we have players like Grant Leadbitter, who will have felt that feeling before of losing at Wembley for Sunderland.

“But for a lot of our younger players, this is their first time at Wembley and it’s a good honour to win. If we can win this cup it could really spark success and be the catalyst we need to go on and finish the league season really well."

The Black Cats are on a bit of a roll when it comes to ending hoodoos having dispatched Portsmouth 2-0 at Fratton Park for the first time since 1997 in the league last Tuesday.

Indeed, Sunderland are unbeaten in eight in all competitions coming into the final with Johnson’s men just two points off the automatic promotion spots with 13 fixtures left to play.

“Sometimes the game is motivational enough itself, sometimes you need to pull on the heartstrings, sometimes you need to match their mood.

“Emotions are high, you’re working with the elite 0.01 per cent of people that play football and these lads have egos as well.

“But so far so good and the lads have been absolutely fantastic at Sunderland. And I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly."