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Ellis Short’s Sunderland hit crunch week; re-erect ‘for sale’ sign & do what with half-built team?

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The end of August is upon us and the summer which began with takeover talk will conclude with two key decisions for Sunderland owner Ellis Short. Push the club back on the sale market & do what with a half-built squad refurbishment?

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

When Sunderland announced that weeks of fevered speculation over the future of the club were to be halted upon the rejection of a takeover bid back in June, all thoughts swiftly turned to who would be next in the Stadium of Light hot seat and who the new boss would bring in ahead of the Championship campaign.

Such had been the delay in progress on footballing matters due to takeover talk, little time was spent mulling over the long term when the short needed so much attention.

With the exits of the Black Cats ‘best’ players now little more than a faded memory of the early days of summer, a few swift replacements unveiled and the football proper now firmly underway, few have given the next chapter in the ownership of Sunderland AFC much thought.

But with the summer transfer activity set to conclude later this week, Sunderland owner Ellis Short will surely push his club back onto the market and seek a buyer whom this time he deems more suitable than the German-led consortium whose bid he rejected nearly two months ago.

That football club which will be touted once more looks moderately different to the one which Tony Adams, Fulwell73 and some unidentified investors from Deutschland were allegedly vying to take control of at one point earlier this year.

The one which had suffered a painful relegation from the Premier League has been replaced by one currently sitting in the lower half of the division below. Some big names have gone to be substituted by cheap replacements and a few choice loan deals.

Sunderland v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
The Stadium of Light
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Certainly though, the debt which is never far from the discussion around Sunderland AFC will have reduced somewhat after this summer's favourable trading.

Indeed, a rough and ready estimation would suggest that the amount put towards the club’s monies-owed is more than the past couple of years combined - perhaps somewhere in the region of £20m to £25m has come off the figure in red.

So Ellis Short’s Sunderland will be back up for sale carrying something like £90m in debt this time around with significant transfer incomings due next summer payable for Fabio Borini from AC Milan, Jeremain Lens from Besiktas and a decent instalment still from Everton on the sale of Jordan Pickford.

Factor in three years' worth of parachute payments equating to something like £30m per annum and perhaps the club looks somewhat more appealing to prospective bidders now than it did at the end of last season.

Indeed, at this rate Sunderland could well be a fair way out of the red in a few years time. Which is all well and good, but this is a football team we’re discussing - one which at the present time looks some way off being a genuine promotion contender, which is the true barometer of 'success' surely.

Whilst Ellis Short, Martin Bain and the associated directors and executives which make up corporate Sunderland may be forgiven for exchanging a few high-fives right now, down in the dressing room a certain Simon Grayson will be pondering that a small portion of that money set aside for debt reduction would actually give him a chance of making the Play-offs.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Simon Grayson
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

And that’s not to mention the Black Cats fan base who, stung by years of miserable endeavours on the pitch and in the stands, have withstood an awful drop into the second tier and are already murmuring between themselves at the perceived lack of interest and investment from the man who owns the football club.

A few more bad results like the last couple against Leeds and Barnsley may yet galvanise the Sunderland support into organising itself into a protesting angst-ridden collective - the like of which hasn’t been seen on Wearside for a number of years.

It’s certainly obvious that Simon Grayson was appointed to keep his nose out of such affairs and keep the football side of the operation ticking along free from the threat of a nosedive into League One. But truth be told, his squad is a mile off achieving much more than that.

A mid-table finish or worse beckons this season without some further investment in the squad. £5m might give the club a chance of a top ten finish with a fair wind behind it and luck with injuries and the like. But £8m - £12m is likely the amount required to transform the squad into genuine promotion contenders.

The returns of Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair and even Josh Maja will help, but even then more games are likely to be lost than won. Potential sales of Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri, Didier Ndong or even Lee Cattermole remain an unknown portion of the equation of course but we will know more about that by Friday morning of this week once the transfer window shuts.

So with crowds already showing signs of restlessness, the decision on what to do next rests with one man and his cheque book - as it does every season.

Will Ellis Short hand Simon Grayson and the Sunderland support a lifeline and a little investment which could moderately transform this season - and of course increase the appeal of the club to prospective buyers?

I wouldn’t hold your breath, but investing next to nothing is one heck of a risk which could yet turn ugly.