It’d only been three days since Sunderland had secured Premier League survival under Ricky Sbragia. After a run-in that saw us get only one win from 13 games, we were left relying on results elsewhere to guarantee our safety.
And, despite the lads falling to defeat at home to Chelsea, we’d stayed up and the mags went down.
Apart from Phil Brown’s singing.
It had been a strange old season. It had begun with Roy Keane at the helm, determined to take a big step forward in establishing Sunderland as a top-half team.
As it turned out, it was a step too far, attempted far too quickly.
Signings such as Chimbonda and Diouf didn’t work out, Roy’s beard grew longer by the second, it seemed, and following a row over where he was living and a home hammering by Bolton, he was off.
After all that he had achieved, it was a shame for it to end like that.
The chief protagonist in the discussion about living arrangements, it turned out, was Ellis Short. The Irish/American billionaire had been brought into the club by Niall Quinn after the recession hit his Drumaville Consortium hard. Short had bought a controlling interest in the club, but on this day, 13 years ago, he’d assumed full control.
This is fantastic news for the club. Ellis has already shown tremendous commitment to date but today’s announcement opens the door for a new era at the Stadium of Light.
Even before today he has personally invested more in Sunderland than all previous chairmen, directors and owners combined in the club’s history.
Last summer he injected tens of millions of pounds to fund our new signings and the resultant increased wage bill.
In going forward, as long as we invest the funds wisely, he will continue to provide what has been the missing ingredient in Sunderland’s make up, namely the financial muscle necessary to compete at the highest level.
It all sounded great, didn’t it?
The remaining members of the Drumaville Consortium – John Ryan, Pat Bierne, John Hays, Charlie Chawke and Owen McGartoll – all left the board, meaning Quinny, still chairman at this stage, was left manning the fort, alongside the new board of Quinn, Steve Walton, Lesley Callaghan, Margaret Byrne and Chris Woerts.
After the Chelsea defeat, Sbragia – a reluctant permanent manager – abdicated his role, with the promise of a ‘job for life’ ringing in his ears. And so began the search for a new manager.
Controversially, given his background and the (mostly) good-humoured taunting he received with predictable regularity when in the away dugout at the Stadium of Light, Steve Bruce was quickly identified as the man Quinn and Short wanted to lead the lads into the next season.
Wigan had agreed to let Bruce talk to Sunderland without a compensation package being agreed – a strange move that put Sunderland and Bruce in a rather difficult position. It was speculated that Quinn, determined to get his new manager in early to give the club the best chance of success in the new season, was already growing frustrated with Wigan holding up the deal and was on the verge of pulling the plug.
Bruce, meanwhile, was looking forward to whatever the future held:
There’s always speculation and you cannot stop that. It is flattering. But I’m very, very pleased with what’s happened with us at Wigan and I’m quite pleased with what’s happening in the future, so we’ll see what develops.