I’m not going to pretend I know what goes on behind the scenes as that would be incredibly naïve. I’m just going off what we’re told on social media, by journalists or by club figures.
I know on some level the situations at Sunderland and those clubs aren’t comparable but they are all clubs, especially Southampton and Stoke, that I feel Sunderland should be competing with consistently in the Premier League. But a difference is that financially those clubs haven’t wasted money on players like we have over the last few years.
Ellis Short has been Sunderland’s owner for a good number of years now and I know he has invested multi-millions into the club. I will always remain grateful that he isn’t Mike Ashley or Karl Oyston.
In the past we’ve spent big money on players like Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher - the club received nothing in return when those players left the club. The reported figures were £22-24m combined for the two of them. Both went for nothing, albeit in completely different circumstances.
But on the other hand, trying to constantly cut corners and do things as cheap as possible does not work in most cases. Jan Kirchhoff aside, how many players that we have spent little or no money on have been a genuine success?
I want to cast your minds back to the summer of 2014. Gus Poyet had just saved Sunderland from certain relegation while taking the club to a league cup final and were within one half of football of winning a major trophy. Yet he had next to no backing in the transfer market. We spent £10m on Jack Rodwell but aside from that we either got players on loan or spent minimal amount of money on.
Look at when Dick Advocaat returned - he apparently wanted ‘five or six’ quality signings and how many of the players we signed last summer could you say were of a high standard?
Even look at Sam Allardyce, who proved to Short in January what he could do with financial backing. He was apparently starting to get frustrated with the lack of sufficient funds at the club. Short has apparently fallen out with the last couple of managers about the funds. However bad Lee Congerton is perceived to be, I suspect he was heavily restricted in his role at Sunderland.
I was listening to the Wise Men Say podcast (listen to it if you haven’t already – it’s well worth it) and there was a suggestion that the money Sam Allardyce spent to bring Whabi Khazri and Lamine Kone to the club in January may have come out of this summer’s budget.
Bear in mind this could be me reading into this the wrong way but to me, that suggests he wasn’t prepared to spend the money to give Sunderland the best possible chance of staying in the Premier League, especially in a year which was crucial to not get relegated. I can now appreciate that we are trying to clear a debt but not spending anything and going down would have cost more. I suspect Finanical Fair Play will have played a part in the last few years as well, but I am getting tired of hearing those words repeated every season. There will be some benefits to it I’m sure but a huge problem is that there hasn’t been an adequate explanation of what FFP is, what it’s designed to do and what the consequences are if those rules are broken. I will admit that’s probably not Short’s fault though.
Also, the whole point in avoiding relegation last season was to make sure we received some of the TV money that’s been thrown around. However, since then a well-respected member of the media stated that the debt we are currently trying to clear is around the £70m mark. If so, that is massively concerning but I do now at least understand that we must clear that first before we can make significant strides up the Premier League table.
My point in writing this article is that I do still think Short has questions to answer. The supposed falling out with previous managers and head coaches who all would’ve wanted funds to improve the team and also the type of people he has appointed to run the club leave me scratching my head.
It’s hard for me to watch other clubs like Watford, Bournemouth and, especially, Crystal Palace spend money but they won’t be in as much of a financial state as what we are.
I’m not on the Short In bandwagon but I’m less on the Short Out bandwagon that what I was previously.
I now somewhat understand, as much as I can as a fan without knowing what goes on behind the scenes, that we have to have a limited budget to get us out of the red and into the black.
Yann M’Vila is a prime example of this. If Sunderland had the money like Palace have done, then I think there’s a good chance we’d have paid to have him now. But if we were on such a low budget, why would we spent £7-8m on M’Vila now when in four months time we can have him for free? Loads of fans were going mental when we didn’t sign him on deadline day but I understand, and agree with, the club’s decision to wait another few months. I will stress though that not signing him on deadline day will only be acceptable to me if he definitely joins for free in the next transfer window.
Victor Anichebe joining until the end of the season makes sense for me as he’s a player who the manager knows and trusts. He will offer a different problem for opposition defences up front than Jermain Defoe. I don’t expect him to score goals but if he gets one or two match-winning goals for Sunderland this season then that’s me happy on that part. All I expect from him is to be strong, powerful and a physical nightmare. Oh, and to be a less shit version of Jozy Altidore.