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OPINION: How Ellis Short has overseen the slow, sad demise of Sunderland AFC

“Realistically we can't expect anything but struggle for the foreseeable future, because by Short’s own lack of leadership - his inability to either control or inspire those who work for him - he's rendered Sunderland unfit for purpose”, writes John Crocker.

Invest in Africa/AFC Sunderland Event Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

I wouldn't argue that Ellis Short has genuine feelings for Sunderland, nor that he hasn't spent his own millions subsidising the day-to-day running of it during his watch. Nevertheless, there’s truth in the notion that from the moment Short arrived, our club has deteriorated season upon season - and the blame for this has to be laid firmly at his feet.

Short took over when the club was in the ascendancy - Niall Quinn and Roy Keane were striving to tackle our demons - and whilst it wasn't all plain-sailing we at least felt that we could look forward to a positive future. But then Short bought out the Drumaville consortium, fell out with Keane, saw his relationship deteriorate with Quinn to the point that he too walked away and then replaced a measured dose of optimism with a vacuum.

What has killed our club since, then, is simply this - from Day one, Ellis Short didn't have a clue what he wanted to do with our club. He had no vision of where he wanted it to go, of how he wanted it to be managed, what he wanted it to achieve, or what it should represent either to himself or to other people.

Sunderland v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

He's stumbled from one model to another, one system to another, changed manager after manager - but these are all irrelevant, and have nothing to with the real problem at Sunderland. Almost instantaneously he abdicated responsibility for the running of this club - and the results are there for all to see.

Every organisation needs to be led: its component parts need someone to follow, to know where they fit into the bigger picture, what's expected of them, how they interact with their colleagues and what they're trying to achieve. From what I can see, Sunderland has none of this.

A recent article here on Roker Report by Tom Atkinson asked "Where did our ambition go?” - a great question, and I think the answer is inexplicably linked to Ellis Short’s complete reluctance to take the reins. How can you have ambition without direction? The former is framed by the latter. How can you aspire to be better when you don't know what's expected of you?

The effects of being leaderless cripples an organisation. With strong leadership and clear goals, patterns of behaviour and decision making within the structure are much easier. Without leadership the structure breaks up. Individual departments make decisions based on their own interests, internal cooperation can suffer, people take less risks and protect their own backs, become complacent and in short, there's nothing to aim for - so they stop trying. The result is mediocrity.

And that is where this club has pretty much been since Short took over - satisfied with mediocrity. Much has been said by previous Sunderland managers of a "rotten core" in the club and I think that this is it. This complacent, negative attitude of "not putting yourself out too much"; this contentment that "just enough is good enough" seems to permeate every layer of the organisation - this is the "rotten core" of Sunderland. It's not one or two strong characters in the dressing room as has been speculated, but it certainly gives them the environment in which to prosper.

This was the situation that Quinn and Keane were tackling head on. Quinn knew the club inside out and when he first became chairman he was at the club everyday, acting as the focal point by giving direction and guidance. Keane just had to be himself of course, but between the two of them they'd started to address the malaise that this club had suffered from for too long - and the results were electrifying.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

However with them gone things rapidly slipped back to where they had been. With Short’s hands-off approach, the people in positions of authority were making decisions that should never have been allowed to see the light of day. From the financial suicide of our transfer policy and the Adam Johnson debacle to the unbelievable Ricky Alvarez situation and the conditions of Jermaine Defoe’s contract, all of these 'deals' should have been laughed out of the board room by the powers above. The trouble at Sunderland is that there is no 'above'.

In the meantime the club suffers. In what successful business model can just scraping survival in the league be considered a success? Where were the crisis meetings, the in-depth analysis of what had gone wrong? When you expect mediocrity that is what you produce, and it's not considered a failure.

Simon Grayson recently stated that he rarely talks to the American, only to Martin Bain, who in turn talks to Short. But we know that Short has nothing to say, so Grayson is basically talking to the man who organises the deckchairs on the Titanic for all the good it's going to do anyone.

I admit that this is all conjecture - I have no inside knowledge of the club. But successful organisations always start from the top with a clear message of where they're heading and how they're going to achieve their goals. They have clear lines of communication from top to bottom, and everyone knows how and where they fit in and what's expected of them. Sunderland appear to be a million miles away from that.

I'm angry that the people Ellis Short entrusted to run our club were so inept, that they were handsomely paid before moving on from this mess to new careers whilst the rest have been left to pick up the pieces. I'm angry at the myriad of cuts and job losses as well as the treatment of the Ladies team, all of whom have had to pay for Short’s mismanagement of Sunderland through no fault of their own. I despair when I think of the potential that has been wasted from the position we were in when he took over, but most of all, I cannot forgive him for the pride and pleasure he's taken from thousands of people.

We know that Ellis Short wants to sell our club, and we all hope that it happens soon, and to the right people. Until then, realistically we can't expect anything but struggle for the foreseeable future, because by his own lack of leadership - his inability to either control or inspire those who work for him - he's rendered Sunderland unfit for purpose.

I accept that he has genuine feelings for our club, but I bet you that he's not hurting anywhere near as much as we are.

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