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No more excuses: SAFC must get next appointment right or face years in footballing wilderness

It's an important week for the British public.... and Sunderland. Will the correct decisions be made in order to secure a brighter future for those that crave it?

Sunderland owner Ellis Short is "drinking in the last chance saloon" following a string of disastrous managerial appointments.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

This week important decisions will be made - choices that will shape our future, appointments made by the few on behalf of the many. Some will undoubtedly be left disappointed, whilst others will rejoice in the sweet taste of victory.

There are those that will feel we have got it wrong again - that the hierarchy are oblivious to the harsh lessons learnt from the failures of previous regimes, that our voices as supporters have once again been ignored.

In contrast some will see this as a dawning of a new day, the beginning of a new era in which hope springs eternal, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the previous regime to reignite the fire in our bellies; a fire that was barely burning last term.

As the nation prepares to go to the ballot box to elect its new leader, Ellis Short and Martin Bain have a much bigger decision to make and they must get it right. Sunderland, right now, are teetering on a precipice - one wrong move and we will fall off the cliff and into the football oblivion that is League 1.

It happened to Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, so don’t think that it can’t happen to us.

Short’s reckless mismanagement of this football club has led us to financial ruin and we as supporters are paying a heavy price for his mistakes. Short – who has seemingly put his trust in chief executive Martin Bain – has another opportunity to get it right, but get it right he must, for our Texan cowboy is very much drinking in the last chance saloon.

To put it in political terms: Short is a Tory man operating in the Labour heartlands of Sunderland. His intentions may be good, but he is hopelessly out of touch with his electorate. He attends two or three games a season, has no interaction with our supporters and spends most of his time protecting his other business interests in the USA. Combine this with his lack of footballing knowledge and it is hardly surprising that we find ourselves plying our trade in the Sky Bet Championship.

Everybody has different opinions as to where it all went wrong, but for me the writing was on the wall the day that Niall Quinn resigned as Sunderland chairman.

Quinn was everything that Short is not; affable, honest and trustworthy – a safe pair of hands if you will, as once demonstrated in a crucial away game at Bradford City in which he scored the winner at one end before donning the gloves at the other to keep a clean sheet in a vital promotion clash.

Niall Quinn: A man of the people.
Photo by Neil Thomas /Getty Images

His roadshows encouraged supporters to ask questions about the club’s direction and, as a result, you felt like your voice was being heard - like you were a part of something bigger, like ‘community club’ wasn’t just a series of words lumped together for PR purposes. It meant something - to you, to him, to everybody in attendance.

His warmth was infectious, his generosity unmatched in footballing circles. It’s fair to say that Quinn was a man of the people, as he ably demonstrated in 2007 following Sunderland’s 1-0 away win at Cardiff City. When a group of 80 supporters were ejected from an Easyjet flight at Bristol airport by an over-zealous pilot, Quinn not only leapt to their defence but he also paid £8000 out of his own pocket to bring them back to Wearside in a fleet of 18 taxis.

He was there, once again, when supporters needed him most, just like he was the year before when he returned to the club with his Drumaville consortium following Sunderland’s disastrous 15-point relegation from the Premier League.

Positive off-the-field headlines were a feature of the Niall Quinn era. He was the voice of the fans, the crucial link between the boardroom and the dressing room, a man respected by everyone connected with the football club. How we all rue the day he stepped down as chairman. It’s been an unmitigated disaster ever since and Short must hold his hands up and take the lion share of the blame.

The political landscape is changing. We have had enough of the lies, the cuts and the outright arrogance of those in positions of power. Our voices need to be heard. We need an end to austerity because this club is badly in need of investment on the pitch. We have a squad that is hopelessly short of both numbers and quality and only investment, significant investment, will help pick us up off the floor.

We must all play our part. The new manager - whoever he may be - must buy into the history and culture of this club. They should see this as the fantastic opportunity that it is and not merely feel that they are too good for the job, that they are somehow doing us – the fans – a massive favour by simply being here. Get it right at Sunderland and you will acquire legendary status, get it wrong and you will hear from us.

So in election week important decisions need to be made; choices that will greatly affect our future, decisions that will determine which division we are playing in next season. Get it right and we could be mixing it with the big boys once again, get it wrong and we may find ourselves in the footballing abyss for only the second time in our history.

Hopefully I am wrong, but I have little faith that those in power will get it right and, if that is the case, it is time for us to do the unthinkable.

Something that is not in our DNA as Sunderland supporters. Something that will feel uneasy but is a necessary evil. We must do the unexpected, something which those in power take for granted - we must vote with our feet.

We must speak in terms that the out-of-touch elite understand, accept the fact that football has changed and evolved into a sport where money is power. People such as Niall Quinn – honest and trustworthy chairmen – are, but for a fortunate handful of clubs, representative of a bygone era. Desperate times call for desperate measures, we must seize back control and let those with the broadest shoulders know that we will not tolerate this anymore. Our very future may very well depend on it.

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