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'Are you watching, Ellis Short?' - Sunderland's ability to spend in January explained

For several weeks tensions have been slowly mounting just below the surface, as poor performances on the field have been accentuated by what appeared to be an inability to find money off the field. On Saturday the tensions erupted, and Sunderland fans voiced their angst. “Are you watching, Ellis Short?” was the question that reverberated around the Stadium of Light in the midst of a capitulation against Stoke.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fast forward to Monday and Craig Hope of the Daily Mail alongside James Hunter of The Chronicle announced that they understood Sunderland to have lodged a bid with Norwich for the services of Ireland’s Euro 2016 hero, Robbie Brady. Not the most thrilling of potential signings, but still a step in the right direction. The big question now on every fan’s lips is: was Ellis Short indeed listening, and how much do we have to spend?

Derby County v Norwich City- Sky Bet Championship
Have Sunderland placed a bid for Robbie Brady? If so, how much is in the war chest?
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

The world of transfers and potential deals is a shady sphere at best. Rumour and speculation are rife and whether Sunderland have lodged a bid or not is uncertain; however, the level of interest in the supposed offer suggests that Sunderland have expressed some form of interest in the Irishman.

Whilst many are surprised that, despite Martin Bain’s gloomy outlook on Sunderland’s potential to fund January signings in mid-December, it would appear money has been acquired from somewhere. But how? Aren’t we at our FFP limit?

In theory, yes we are, and perhaps Short and co. are just willing to roll the dice with FFP - and any potential issues that may arise - in order to attempt to secure our Premier League status. A risky gamble, but certainly one that would seem worth the chance.

If that is indeed the case, then the amount of funds set would basically be whatever Short is able to cobble together in an attempt at providing David Moyes a decent sum of money for new players. For a man actively looking to sell the club, you wouldn’t imagine it would be a particularly large sum - perhaps enough for two or three solid additions.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League
Will Moyes have a substantial amount of money to play with this January?
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Another option is via that of creating cash for transfers through sales. Bain and Short could potentially have several sales lined up and are using that hypothetical money in order to secure new signings. Lamine Kone, Jordan Pickford, Wahbi Khazri and Patrick Van Aanholt would all command significant fees, and David Moyes might fancy that he would be able to replace said players with cheaper players who he feels are just as capable.

It’s a risky strategy, but certainly conceivable. That being said, the notion that Ellis Short is looking to reduce debt and sell the club would also come into play here. As many people have noted - selling a Premier League team is a lot easier and more lucrative than selling a relegated side with high debts and players desperate to leave. Perhaps a small injection of cash could help to increase the club’s overall value?

The final, and potentially least obvious, option is that of creative accounting. I won’t even try to explain the ins and outs of the concept because in all reality a lot of it is difficult to comprehend, no matter how many times I try and educate myself. But in essence, financial officers are able to move debts and owed money around in order to create breathing room.

For example, Sunderland might move some of their debt - and its accrued interest - to a different lender who in turn might ease off on interest payments for several years. Sunderland could potentially use that saved money in order to invest in playing staff. It’s a little out there in terms of feasibility, but it’s an option nonetheless.

Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League
Has Ellis Short found room to maneuver in order to provide David Moyes with funds?
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

When quizzed about his need to reinforcements and where he had heard the “Are you watching, Ellis Short?” chants, Moyes was coy in his response to the press.

Ellis does watch the games but we've known the situation anyway. We want to get players back from injury and if we can make some additions to the squad, I hope we can.

Ultimately it would seem Sunderland will be active this window, potentially thanks to Bain and Moyes’ media approaches. The sombre tone of Bain’s pre-Christmas interview certainly left fans angered at our financial predicament, and David Moyes’ stark refusal to play youth players has certainly contributed to the fan’s vocal outcry. Their negativity might be what provides us with the much-needed reinforcements that could guide us to safety.

Do we have money? Possibly! Now it’s time to see if Moyes and co. can acquire the right players capable of aiding our current predicament.