Could Sunderland finally be about to free themselves of Ellis Short?
Nothing fills me with more hope and excitement regarding Sunderland than the American’s potential exit. Amidst managerial uncertainty, crippling debt limiting our ability to compete even at Championship level, and the cloud of relegation still stinging in recent memory - nothing could be more transformative or exhilarating for Black Cats fans then a new team at the helm to fund and modernise our club.
The current manager search has epitomised the incompetency and confusion that has reigned supreme over the past eight years. The club are the laughing stock of English football after Derek McInnes’s last minute change of heart, declining our top job. That a manager crashing against a glass ceiling in the under-funded Scottish Premier League would reject the chance to reputedly triple his wages on Wearside reflects the depths that Sunderland have dropped to under Short.
As previously stated in this blog the cult of the manager once again rules under Short. The lack of movement on new signings, alongside the lack of confirmation in terms of retention of players out of contract this summer has portrayed a club that has been on hold since Moyes walked out the door.
Sunderland were burned with the lack of a structure in place to withstand a change of manager when Sam Allardyce left relatively abruptly, and there has been a sense of history repeating itself with chief executive Martin Bain now building an archaic, out of touch infrastructure on Wearside with Short’s blessing.
Just last week media outlets reported that Chief Football Officer, Simon Wilson - brought in to work on scouting, recruitment and youth development among other things - has been told he can leave the club this summer after only arriving in January of this year. Poor once more from the club’s hierarchy if true.
So what better time than now to wash our hands of the American. His short-term, panicked policies meant each barely avoided crisis just lead to a worsening of issues throughout the club?
Whilst failed strategy and bad recruitment under Short was at some point exchanged for apathy and a sense of surrender, this gloom and negativity that has engulfed the club can be lifted if he moves on. New ownership would bring a fresh approach and new ideas to a club that has been stagnant for years.
For all the reasons to wish rid of the current hierarchy the biggest blessing a new ownership could provide is fresh funds. Sunderland are set for a chaotic summer, and appointing a new manager doesn’t even cover half of the challenges facing the club.
It’s easier to list the positions Sunderland don’t need new players in than areas where improvement is needed. My projections have the club needing to strengthen in all positions bar right back and central midfield, and even those two positions are only secure due to a sense that incumbent Wearsiders aren’t good enough to force moves to a higher level.
Without new investment the club will be acquiring a playing staff made up of loans and free transfers - and that isn’t good enough if we are to recover. Previous poor transfers under Short’s stewardship need to be investigated and discussed so the club can move forward with more progressive scouting and decision making.
Sunderland’s well documented struggles whilst using a Director of Football lead to our billionaire overlord abolishing the system. Initial success under Sam Allardyce masked the risks of giving autonomy to one man on player recruitment. His quick departure for England then exasperated our problems last year when David Moyes wasn’t capable of mastering such a challenging system.
New owners should be able to work with a manager or head coach and find a compromise that will allow the club to maximise our excellent facilities as well as modernising our strategy for transfers. Finding an infrastructure where we’re less dependent on one man to make all footballing decisions and assessing our approach to transfers is crucial. Among all the mistakes and misery last year, failings in player recruitment were perhaps the most glaring. New investors can change that.
If change is implemented correctly, Sunderland can look at the need for major overhaul as a positive not a negative. Needing to replenish two thirds of our playing squad means with smart transfer business and a decent transfer kitty Sunderland can challenge for promotion. Conversely by signing the wrong players - or handcuffing yourself with too small a budget - would likely mean that League One beckons. That’s the enormity of the challenge facing the club this year, so bringing fresh ideas beyond even our new manager could make all the difference.
Sell Sunderland to the right group and you could potentially transform our fortunes for the next ten years. Under Short the club is drifting further and further down the footballing pyramid; however, with Short potentially gone Sunderland can stop the slide at the first hurdle - this could be the positive change we’ve needed for so long.