A Ship Without A Rudder

April 23, 2018

Ellis Short has done nothing other than wrecked Sunderland AFC. Where on earth do you begin to catalogue the list of appalling mistakes he's made? How can you quantify his betrayal of our club and of us, the fans?

 

Sunderland AFC have gone from a long-standing Premier League member to League One in no time, with one of the most detested owners in English football. Yes, I'm aware that is a competitive market these days! He's removed directors with experience, nous and dedication. He has sold playing assets, went through managers like a dose of salts and then oversaw relegations, stagnation and farce.

 

Niall Quinn made dreams come true and left a legacy. Short has been a nightmare and ripped it up. Crowds have dropped by 70 per cent as fans have given up and called for the owner to sell our club to someone who actually cares about it before things get even worse. As supporters who have spent a large part of these past years trying to unearth how all this happened, our lives have been turned upside down. No club has a divine right to success. That goes without saying. This isn't some pitiful lament because we feel we 'deserve' to be doing better.

 

On the pitch we should go up and down as results dictate like anyone else. But it really shouldn't be the case that an absentee owner with zero credentials let a family be mashed to a pulp.

 

Family? Yes family. Sunderland AFC is a family I was born into, it's my identity, my team, my passion. Short may hold the keys to the front door, but the supporters are the lifeblood of any club. And it's draining away from us.

 

It leaves us heading to the third tier, broken and in debt, with a squad assembled over the last 12 months for the price of a house just a hoofed clearance from the Stadium of Light. Our squad has been flooded with loanees, free transfers and never have-beens. If I have one message for Short it is this: as a fan I'm still standing. I was here long before you and will be here long after you disappear. We, the Sunderland AFC supporters, will continue to wait in the wings as guardians until that day comes.

 

Now I hope the words above resonate with many of you, or certainly that you agree with most of them. But now I have a confession. Those words are not mine, and indeed they are not about SAFC.

 

They were written by a loyal Blackburn Rovers fan, Glen Mullan, just over a year ago before his club were relegated again to League One. All I have done is substitute 'Sunderland AFC', 'Ellis Short' 'Niall Quinn' & 'Stadium of Light', for 'Blackburn Rovers', 'Venky's' 'Jack Walker' and 'Ewood Park'.

 

The reason for me doing so, is from the outside there seems to be more than a few similarities in both our situations. So I wondered if it would be worth attempting to clutch at a few straws and wonder if all is not lost should any potential takeover fail to materialise.

 

Fast-forward to the present day, the talk at Blackburn is of a galvanised support, a united dressing room, managerial stability, a swift return to The Championship and barely any talk of the club's much-maligned owners.

 

So, is it possible that should the unthinkable happen, and Ellis Short is still the owner of SAFC this time next year, we could also be enjoying the same feelings of optimism? There certainly appears to be a glimmer of hope, if we glance across to the North West and compare fortunes. But for all this comparison talk, here is the key difference.

 

Following relegation from the Championship, Tony Mowbray met with his employers and was reassured that he had their backing and they had a plan to turn things round. He was reassured that they would provide further funds on top of their existing loans, in order to invest in the playing squad and rebuild the club. He returned from that meeting having extended his contract and with a plan in place to hit the ground running.

 

Chris Coleman has yet to speak with Ellis Short, never mind meet with him since he arrived on Wearside. He's not just an absent owner in geographical terms, but he can't even be arsed to pick the phone up to the Manager of his club. There goes that glimmer of hope.

 

And if someone had said a few years back that the Venky's would be preferred to any owner, of any football club in the land, it would be beyond laughable. Unless it was your basket-case of a club they were talking about. Still though, at least we would never stoop as low as having our players 'star' in a cringeworthy TV advert to make money for the owners…

 

Nah, we make a full documentary series instead.

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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