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Sunderland Paying The Price For Poor Past Decisions

Just why aren't Sunderland throwing money at fixing their problems?

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

I have to admit, it's hard watching the clubs down at the bottom of the league with us spending money on players that they hope will be the difference between relegation and salvation. It's completely understandable too, because all Sunderland fans want to see is for their side to not struggle in the top flight, and quite often the easy answer to all of your problems is to throw cash at it and hope it's enough to get you by.

It's the beast that the Premier League machine has created. Bournemouth have lived well within their means for a number of years and now, having been burned by almost entering liquidation, they are a top flight club that find themselves able to spend bigger then they ever have done on improving their squad. Taking into consideration the money they've spent on transfers and wages in recent years, in comparison to a club like ours, it's easy to see how they're now able to pay out large sums of money on players that they believe are going to keep them up, whilst we have struggled to sustain the level of spending that has seen us stay in the division for nine years.

Unfortunately for us, it's a much more complex task than plucking tens of millions of pounds from thin air to finance the signing of another player.

In the last three years we've had four permanent managers, three of whom were released from their lucrative Premier League contracts. It's easy for a football fan to suggest sacking a manager but the cost that a football club incurs in doing so is quite often eye-watering.

It's almost like taking a briefcase full of fifty quid notes, handing it over, and never seeing a penny of it again.

It's a stain on the balance sheet that the club simply cannot account for with precision - the tenure of a football manager completely depends upon the performance of the team that year. Sunderland could hire a manager, find out he's not good enough and sack him before the end of his contract. Alternatively, we could slowly improve every season and have a man in charge for ten years that will continue to take the club forward, with the added bonus that we aren't paying a fortune out every year to pay him off when things go tits up. Imagine that?

It's much easier said than done, of course. It's fair to say that understanding when it's time to let a manager go and replace them is exactly what has kept us in this division for the last four years, but as a result we've seen an incredible turnover of players that were deemed good enough for one manager yet not for another. Short term fixes without considering the bigger picture.

There's only so much 'hiring and firing' that a football club can do before it comes to a head. Eventually, the sheer volume of structured payments for players you bought years ago that are no longer even at the club will impact your spending. Amortisation costs will begin to cripple your accounts and you'll enter a period where you simply cannot spend money to mask the failings of the past.

Sunderland, unfortunately, are in that situation.

I don't profess to be an expert on how transfer deals are structured but it's fair to say they're far more complicated than just bidding x-amounts for a player and offering them a contract like on a game of Football Manager. Often the payments will be structured so that the full amount is spread across a number of years.

Consider the fact Sunderland have made thirty-two permanent signings in the last three years, and have allowed thirty-five to leave the club on a permanent basis. That's obscene.

Sam Allardyce said himself to the press two weeks ago that the restrictions in place are preventing him from perhaps strengthening the squad to the level he feels is acceptable. Sam said:

I would like to get two more if I can, but I’m counting on the generosity of the owner if I don’t get anybody out.

And also, I’ve got to be very aware of the wage scenario today with the regulations.

It’s not just an open door anymore, so we have to be very mindful of the overall position of the club.

Financial Fair Play is a minefield that nobody wants to get caught up in, and years of mismanagement and trusting the wrong people has left Ellis Short in an uncompromising position. Make no bones about it, the fact we aren't able to operate in the way that other clubs seem to do with ease is down to one person. Ellis Short, as great as he has been for this club, has to take the blame for the state we find ourselves in today.

I just hope we haven't cashed in all of our nine lives just yet. Going down this year just isn't an option, and whilst other teams seem to be spending money in order to increase their chances of survival, it just isn't that simple for Sunderland. Come the summer, when average players that are bloating the club coffers with their big wages are out of contract, the outlook should be comparably different.

The hope, however, is that by 'just getting by' we can stay up by the skin of our teeth, again. Fail to do it and... well, I don't even want to think about what that could mean for us.

Sam Allardyce not only has to convince quality players to come here, but he also has to ensure the squad of players that he has inherited from previous regimes achieves enough wins to keep us in the top flight. I don't envy him one bit.

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