Legend has it that five years ago Ellis Short was driven around Sunderland city centre by then chairman Niall Quinn for a tour of what exactly the Texan billionaire had bought himself in to. Quinn recounted the tale to The Times.
"We drove through and people were literally dancing in the streets because we'd stayed up and Newcastle had been relegated. We drove around and Ellis said, 'This Sunderland is one crazy, son-of-a-bitch club'. That's exactly what it is. Welcome to Sunderland."
Fast forward five years to the summer of 2016, Newcastle have been relegated again and Sunderland fans once more danced in the street. Everything was ‘gonna be alright’, Sunderland were staying up and Newcastle were gone again.
Mackems everywhere rejoiced in the knowledge they were going to get a little peace for a year with the Geordie gobsh!tes resigned to the Championship. With an experienced manager at the helm, we could look forward to a year of growth and stability.
Now what? The ‘son-of-a-bitch’ club just erupted again. It was supposed to be a steady close season with just a few quality additions to whet our appetite for the campaign ahead. It was supposed to be a quiet summer of reflection, all pinky-purple away shirts down Seaburn promenade and enjoying an unremarkable, yet pleasing to the eye, summer transfer window.
Who saw that coming? The manager may be off to the top job at the national side, a job he wouldn’t have had a cat-in-hells chance of getting ‘till now, even when he finished seventh at everyone’s fourth-favourite London club, West Ham.
This ain’t going to be a summer of quiet reflection cocooned within the confines of the status quo that is for sure. For better or for worse something has set off a chain reaction here, the aftershocks of which we may still be feeling come Christmas and beyond.
That something is actually a set of interlinked factors which are going to revolutionise Sunderland as a football club and as a business. It’s a set of changing dynamics within the organisation. It’s Sam Allardyce or his successor, from a position of strength, wielding an influence at the Stadium of Light; it’s Roy Hodgson’s humiliating failure and it’s the man-with-the-money pondering what to do with his ‘son-of-a-bitch’ investment whilst welcoming a new Chief Executive with a mission we have yet to understand.
Whether he goes to England or not, Sam Allardyce’s influence at the Stadium of Light will resound for some time to come. He arrived with a mandate to rid the club of a structure which included a Director of Football. One thing Sam Allardyce is not, is a man used to, or willing to share decision-making with others in the way he does things.
If he stays we will likely see a continued shift in the power base around the football side of the business to his way of doing things. That will likely include the growth in his network, the men he trusts surrounding him. If he goes, the impact has been felt already and some have already gone and more will follow; the chain reaction has started and his departure will not stop it.
I’m thinking Ryan Sachs, now former Head of Footballing Operations or whatever his title was. With Martin Bain, new CEO, now installed there may be few positions within the club hierarchy who are safe. I’m by no means privy to any information whatsoever but I’m thinking Academy, Scouting and Communications; those sorts of departments which have either, through an actual or a perceived viewpoint, ‘underperformed’ in recent years.
Are we heading towards the final chapter of the Ellis-short era? Rumours have abounded for a couple of years that the Texan billionaire would be willing to talk figures with any party interested in purchasing the club.
There’s a new power house in world football, taking an interest in establishing itself in a market which opens doors to an audience like no other – China. Manchester United are on tour there at the moment and Chinese money is flowing into the likes of Manchester City and Inter Milan. We will see a fully-Chinese owned Premier League club within the next twelve months. Will it be Hull? Will it be Sunderland?
Who wants the crazy son-of-a-bitch club?
Finally, expect to see the revolution continue at pace next week. The England ‘interviews’ will likely conclude this weekend with the wise owls at the FA pondering their decision thereafter. Something will certainly happen next week and the madness will only continue.