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Whilst Premier League Spending Sky-Rockets, What Is Holding Sunderland Back?

Another season is upon us and another transfer window is drawing inexorably and agonisingly to a close. What seemed like hope as little as two weeks ago has quickly dissipated into a flurry of unrecognisable teamsheets and angry finger pointing. So what's really going on?

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland AFC have never been cavalier with eight-figure numbers, particularly when those numbers are displayed on a price tag affixed to the clothes of a semi-decent footballer. Even before such ludicrous transfers as Paul Pogba Sunderland were never a team that looked happy to spend big. To date our transfer record stands at £13,600,000, having paid that to Rennes for Asamoah Gyan in 2010.

In a world moved by money and a transfer market that increasingly reflects this, the question begging is where has all the money gone?

The last three managers brought to the club were supposedly given 'assurances'. Presumably this means they've been promised a good budget and control over who comes in to the team and who goes; but this promise hasn't been completely fulfilled, as evidenced by the early public admissions of Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce and post-Middlesbrough by current manager David Moyes.

Each of those managers initially came to the club with a spring in their step and clearly believed that they had the finances and the facilities to turn the ship around and get it back on course for some other than annual relegation battles. Now, here's where it gets a bit dodgy, because that promise has to have come from somewhere.

The quickest and easiest route to blame is our owner, Ellis Short. He has final say on the appointment of a manager and undoubtedly has face to face contact with the candidates in order to get them on board.

But the day to day running of the club is not handled by the owner, it is, of course, handled by the Chief Executive - a position held by Margaret Byrne before the dark cloud that was Adam Johnson over-shadowed us all, which is now held by Martin Bain. We've also had Lee Congerton and Ryan Sachs negotiating on our behalf in recent times.

As part of his interview process David Moyes would have met both of these men and been given the details of his duties as our manager and a brief of what he would have to work with. Now, either both of these gentlemen spent a lot of time and effort lying to David Moyes through their teeth by convincing him that everything was fine and we were ready to push on, or Moyes is a glutton for punishment/deluded about exactly how much of a mark he could make.

The trouble with the blame game is that it doesn't actually solve the problem. Fan-relations and discontent is not enough to make a change within the hierarchies of a football club. Indeed, even finding out who is making what call is a monumental task, because by their very nature these businessmen conduct their business as privately as possible.

As a result all we can do as fans is play a guessing game. One man's demon is Ellis Short, another's is Martin Bain, yet another's might be our Financial Director Angela Lowes. I mean, she's in charge of the money, right? But it isn't as simple as that, sadly.

So, I speculate that there is no money. I put it to you that the financial situation at SAFC is not quite what it's been made out to be. I suggest that we're tied down to at least half a dozen contracts for players that don't play for us anymore, instalments and back pay and compensation for previous managers has crippled us on top of the £70,000,000+ debt that the club officially cites. What seems to be happening this season is very much a "make or break" situation for our club.

It strikes me that Moyes has been given a potential budget based on the sale of several key players that the fans would not have been happy with had they been informed of the intention to move them on.

If Sunderland had some spending money they wouldn't be relying on untested youth and the rejects of other Premier League clubs to fight our battles. They wouldn't be trialing Charles N'Zogbia or signing Steven Pienaar. The manager wouldn't be turning round after losing to a poor Middlesborough side and stating that "nothing dramatic is going to change."

I think the best that everyone at the club hopes for is just one more season in the Premier League to get us some of that TV money and wipe out the debts in one fell swoop. Certainly, David Moyes doesn't claim to have ambitions beyond that this season. Is that really enough to ask? Is that really what such a club, beloved by hundreds of thousands, deserves? Limping from season to season and praying we win the lottery?

Whether it is or isn't, it's what we've got. So I wouldn't bother buckling up your seat belts for this year, because it won't be a rollercoaster. It's going to be a gut churning, brow furrowing, heel digging ugly battle to stay in this league, hoping for just one more big chance next year, one more throw of the dice.

Of course, things could all change in a heartbeat. This time next week we could all be sat here very happy with money spent and players signed - nothing in football surprises me anymore.

For now though, good luck to the young lads who have to fight this fight on our behalf. Let's get behind them.

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