We all saw the sensationalist headlines a month ago about Sunderland's financial health, but it was quite difficult to really know what was going on for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, many of the newspapers reporting it had something of an agenda. By that I don't mean they hate Sunderland or anything like that, but painting a picture of impending financial explosion at a club fighting relegation gave it the kind of dramatic prose that sells and creates chatter, which are things tabloids are generally pretty pro. We can't do anything about that, really.
Secondly, we were only viewing them in isolation. We didn't have access to the bigger picture enabling us to judge the club's performance comparatively with Premier League rivals. Now, thanks to a piece by The Guardian's David Conn, we can.
So, where do Sunderland stand, financially, compared to the rest?
Sunderland's turnover of £78m is pretty much in the middle (11th highest) if you judge on a league table style format. However, numerically we are much closer to the bottom (Wigan's £56m) of the pile than the top where the biggest clubs rake in hundreds of millions a year.
We should be competitive, though, nonetheless. Far more competitive than we have been. This figure is set to rise by around £20m anyway due to the new TV deal, but with around £3m extra on offer for each position you climb in the Premier League, just being better is the quickest and easiest way to become more financially competitive for Sunderland. Easier said than done, I know!
Again, we should probably be performing better than we are, but the underachievement isn't too pronounced considering the club had, last season, the just the 13th highest wage bill at £58m.
That figure is dropping too. It was down by £6m on the previous year's figures which is probably a very healthy thing considering the over-reliance on Ellis Short to cover the club's losses in recent years. Sunderland need to become more financially self-sustainable if it can prosper and getting wages under control is pivotal to that.
The wage bill stands at 76% of turnover, which again is coming down gradually. It sounds a little scary but comparable clubs like Stoke (90%), Fulham (92%) and Aston Villa (85.7%) have bigger concerns there. Ideally, you suspect the club want to get that down to around the 65% figure which Southampton and Newcastle boast. Swansea and West Bromwich Albion have a very comparable figure here to our own.
The Guardian reports a Sunderland loss of £13m, which is significantly down from the previous year indicating it is coming under control.
It doesn't look too bad next to Aston Villa's £52m or Stoke's £32m, but there are Premier League clubs of similar size or stature currently making a profit of breaking even, so plenty of work to be done.
Sunderland's net debt is £78m, which again may sound scarier than it actually is. It's a tough thing to judge really as they key point is whether or not it can be carried. As long as Ellis Short, who the Guardian claims was repaid £28m in loans by the club (a figure which appears to have just gone onto the club's overdraft), continues to back the club, I'm not sure there is anything to worry about.
A couple of comparable clubs, Swansea, Fulham and Norwich, have little or no debt at all, which must be nice. West Ham (£77m) looks similar, whilst Stoke's £36m offers some middle ground. The net debts of Aston Villa £189m and Newcastle £133m are getting a little scarier, and Chelsea's debts of just shy of £1bn look absolutely eye-watering.