The revelation on Tuesday that Ellis Short had dismantled the club's current scouting network was something of a surprise. While it was pretty clear that there would be huge changes in the player recruitment department, very few would have expected a complete overhaul, with Short dismissing Chief Scout Pop Robson and the rest of the scouting network.
In some respects this is slightly harsh on Robson; he has come in for some criticism from fans frustrated by the clubs lack of success in the transfer market in recent years, but he was often underused by O'Neill with the Ulsterman always preferring to have complete control over transfer policy. However, if we are to assume that a Director of Football is to come in, we can also assume that they will want to bring in their own legion of scouts, suggesting Robson's days were numbered from the moment Di Canio was given the title of 'Head Coach'. What this overhaul does show is that this summer should be a very exciting one for Sunderland fans.
While it's a certainty that the dismissal of Robson and his team is unrelated to the 6-1 humbling at Villa Park on Monday, the timing of the news is interesting, coming the morning after that awful defeat. In many ways, that performance against Aston Villa emphasised a lot of the problems Sunderland's squad have had this season, and just how important effective player recruitment will be this season.
It's not that the squad lacks talent, but the game against Villa was a good example of just how inconsistent the players have been, and just how wrongly-used they've been at times this season. Take for example Carlos Cuellar, who started the season in very good form, but who has been very hit and miss since, and who produced his worst performance for Sunderland on Monday night. Seb Larsson, who has been forced into an unfamiliar centre midfield role for most of the season, proved against Villa that, like his manager, he's not a left-winger. The number of individual mistakes in the game has also been a recurring feature this season.
The squad has also had a worrying lack of balance and cohesion all season. One of the big impacts Di Canio had in his first two wins was to get the team to attack in numbers, and as a unit. While his organisation skills helped to cover up the squads flaws, these flaws simply came to the forefront against Aston Villa, and reminded the fans just how much work is needed in the summer transfer market.
With a Director of Football coming in to work with Di Canio, the club will be perfectly placed to correct the current flaws in the squad. Having someone to oversee transfer policy and help to build a squad is the perfect way to deal with the current imbalances.
So while it's true that the defeat at Villa and the decision to get rid of the scouting staff are unrelated, the performance on Monday night emphasised the reasons as to why Short has decided to completely overhaul the scouting system, and bring an entirely new model into the Stadium of Light. The American is tired of seeing his money wasted on under performing players producing the kind of displays such as the one at Villa Park, and a move to the new model with an emphasis on scouting should allow the club to find cheaper talent, and help to build a cohesive playing squad.
It wouldn't be hugely surprising if Short also makes changes to the Academy as well. The American has been a huge fan of the Academy of Light, and with the club spending a lot of resources to attain Category One status in the EPPP, it's likely that changed may be made to guarantee success at this level. The youth system at the club is often criticised by fans for not producing enough young talent, and this is something Short might look to address in the coming months. An increased emphasis on producing young talent would, of course, cut costs in the long run, and help the club become self-sufficient and less reliant on Short's chequebook, so it's not hard to see why the club chairman would be keen for success at youth level.
Ellis Short's revolution points to an exciting summer of change at the Stadium of Light. After the arrival of Di Canio, and now the dismissal of the scouting network, the club are moving to an entirely new model, both in terms of business and in player recruitment. This is our best chance of success on the pitch, and as Short continues to make changes to the club, it points to an exciting new era for Sunderland AFC.