In a bizarre twist to yet another manic week on Wearside, Sunderland owner Ellis Short made an exceedingly rare public appearance yesterday as he sat in front of the club’s cameras and offered his insight on the club’s current situation.
The largely elusive American billionaire has finally answered fans’ calls for clarity - something we’ve been begging for since last April - and it was intriguing to finally hear from our absent owner in person rather than merely reading his thoughts via a pre-scripted press release.
Don’t get me wrong, the video itself wasn’t particularly cathartic, and Short could have said a lot more to assuage our concerns, yet in my opinion the video was very important and absolutely necessary.
In fact I’d go so far as to say it was imperative because, whether illuminating or not, we needed to hear from the man in charge, and he desperately needed to offer us an olive branch in order to help this club move forward.
Whether meaning to or not, Short essentially hit the nail on the head when it comes to the issue that the fans have with the man from Missouri:
The fans should know that when a reporter talks about what I’m thinking or what I’m doing, he’s only guessing or making it up because I don’t talk to the press.
It has been this absence from the spotlight that has forged the uncertainty from which these rumours are born. We’re desperate to know what’s going on, yet with little in the way of public information we’re condemned to dealing with second hand information.
If but one positive thing comes from this initial interview it should be that Short should continue to interact with the fans - even if that is simply via the club’s own media department.
We desperately want to understand Ellis, and the fact that he has shied away from opening dialogue with the majority of the fanbase has increased our hostility towards a man who essentially prevents us from folding - even is his bad decisions are the ones that have us in this current mess.
We can’t understand an enigma, and we can’t give it an sort of credit if we don’t know what’s truly going on. Things need to change, and Ellis Short needs to be more apparent.
Short had a lot more to say on his absence from the spotlight:
I know it’s been in the press that I don’t care anymore and I’m not involved, but that’s simply not true. That’s reporters guessing or making something up. I’m as involved as I’ve ever been.
It is true I’m not physically at as many games, which is really a function of me being more involved in my business life and my family spending more time in the U.S.
But I’m watching, I’m paying attention and to answer the question that you sing at me during mainly the really bad games, yes, I’m watching. Also, I’m involved financially. I put a significant amount of new capital into the club this summer.
It’s comments like this that we’ve needed in recent years. Nothing of much substance is specifically stated in those sentences, yet you sense that Short genuinely cares about this club.
The manner in which he leans in toward the camera with this muted smirk that harbors a palpable sense of irritation and states he is “watching” is somewhat unnerving, yet simultaneously reassuring.
He cares enough to be visibly annoyed at our anger toward him, and that for me brought a bizarre sense of optimism. He cares enough to be pissed off - he is human.
Unfortunately, Short’s comments weren’t some magical wand capable of remedying the inherent distrust we have of our owner with the flick of a wrist - something Short himself acknowledged:
It would be great if there was something I could say that would make everything better. But the reality is, it’s not going to be better until we do better on the pitch. That’s the important thing. Although I understand the frustration, I hope that all of us can focus on that.
We’ve all read the neat little press releases, but without hearing the claims direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, then how can we genuinely place our faith in someone we simply couldn’t truly accept or believe before?
These comments are essentially a stick by which we can now measure Ellis Short and his actions - that’s something we haven’t been able to do in the past. We’ve heard so little from our owner that we’ve never been totally sure as to what he genuinely wants to achieve. Yesterday’s interview, however, certainly added clarity to Short’s overarching plans for the club:
The first order of business is to get ourselves out of this problem, improve our performances and move up the table. After that we need to continue to get stronger and get back into the Premier League as quickly as we can.
This club, the size that it is, the fanbase that it has, belongs in the Premier League, and that’s where we want to be. After that’s happened, then I’ll go back to what my original goal had been when we were in the Premier League and that is that we should be trying to finish seventh place every season.
And there you have it, Ellis Short has spoken out and I for one am pleased that he has done so. Yes there was little in the way of earth-shattering revelations, yet at least we’re now able to hold Short accountable to his own words, dreams and aspirations. Here’s hoping we see more of the same in the coming weeks.