FOR a club which has a home named the Stadium of Light, there is a sense of irony in the fact that they may be described as being in the darkness.

This is Sunderland AFC, now of English football’s third tier, a level at which Wearside’s finest have only found themselves once before.

And who came out with that rather flowery description? Chris Coleman, the manager (until recently). These words were spoken just a few weeks ago by the former Wales boss.

Since then, new owners have taken over and Ellis Short, an American businessman and billionaire who had owned the club, walked away having cleared the considerable debt after years of appalling mismanagement.

Promises have been made by Stewart Donald, until recently chairman of National League side Eastleigh, who is now running the show, that the new manager will be given the biggest budget of any League One club with the aim of getting Sunderland back to the Championship after a year’s sabbatical.

But talk to a supporter or journalist who covers North East football, and put it to them that Sunderland seem to have turned a corner, the response is always going to be the same.

In not-too-distant memory, Sunderland in the Premier League have had gone from mid-table finish to flirting with relegation – including an incredible escape under Gus Poyet back in 2014 when five wins in a row, including one over fierce rivals Newcastle United, saved their skins – and they even reached the League Cup final that season when they unfortunate to lose 3-1 to Manchester City.

So, they managed to hold their own for a time. There were some close calls but there were flashes of positivity along the way, too. However, too many non-football people landed big jobs at the club and made big, and wrong, decisions. I’m not sure much has changed. At least not at this moment in time.

And yet Jack Ross of St Mirren, voted manager of the year by his peers in the 2017/18 title-winning campaign, at 42 perceived as one the best young managers Scotland has produced for some time, is thinking about going there.

And while the recent perception of the club is that of a basket case, those who would steer Ross from taking the post might wish to think twice. I completely understand why he would contemplate taking this risk, and that’s what it would be, because as they have probably been saying on Wearside since the club formed in 1879: “Someone has got to get it right.”

Yet this messed up football club is also a great one. The supporters are without question some of the most loyal in England. Until recently, their crowds dwarfed that of many Premier League clubs despite toiling in the second tier.

The stadium is fantastic. So, too, is the training ground – one of the best in the country. And this still proud institution, built on the site of an old colliery, remains solidly working class.

But let’s talk money. Short has left them debt free, at the personal cost of £140million, which is not quite a clean slate but makes a hell of a difference to a club which has haemorrhaged cash.

The biggest problem is the squad, which should come as no surprise. Ross, should he take up the post, will need to move on at least six players: Lee Cattermole, Lamine Kone, Wahbi Kazri, Papy Djilobodji, Didier Ndong and, notoriously, Jack Rodwell who is in the running to be the club’s worst ever signing.

The wages of that small group is will dwarf half of the teams in League One – that’s their squad and coaching staff.

Sunderland owe about £25m in fees yet to be paid for their expensive flops and Rodwell is on £70,000 a week, does not have a relegation clause, and still has two years on a deal which would cost the club £3.8m.

There is, however, hope (honestly). Most of the players mentioned above will depart. A parachute payment of £36m is a massive help and while this would put Sunderland in a position in which theoretically they could outspend every other team, crazy money is not needed to win League One.

There is a lot for Ross to work with even if he faces a bigger reconstruction job to the one he successfully pulled off in Paisley

There appears to be a slight buzz among the fans now that Short has gone. Put it this way, Coleman wanted to stay and said that if 50 per cent of the club was put right then they would be back in the Championship right away.

Ross would need to finish in the top two. Anything else would be deemed failure. However, we are talking about a manager who has acquitted himself superbly well in his fledgling career at both Alloa and St Mirren and who must fancy testing himself where so many others have failed.

If he can win Sunderland promotion and then stabilise them in the Championship, a better club, if not a bigger one, will come calling.

Or he could revive this sleeping giant. After all, someone has to do it.