Margaret Byrne, David Moyes, Paolo Di Canio '“ it's not just Ellis Short who is to blame at Sunderland
With Ellis Short, Chris Coleman and the Home Secretary all out of the window on the same day, it was one of the more interesting Sundays.
No one, including the man himself, was sorry to see Short leave. However, that he has written off the club’s gigantic debt is to his credit (no pun intended). He didn’t have to do it.
For this at least, Sunderland supporters are grateful. This is massive. The issue of whoever comes or goes is barely newsworthy at the moment compared with the story of the debt erasure.
Short’s association with the club has stung him for around £200million over the years.
This can be difficult to explain to the slower-witted who, unencumbered by things like a shred of evidence, imagine that Sunderland’s sizeable income over the last decade was trousered by the American, when it was simply squandered.
That part of the story is simple enough for most of us to grasp; although I am often harangued by people who subscribe to the sounds-a-bit-funny-if-you-ask-me school of economic theory.
Short never made a penny out of Sunderland AFC.
Furthermore, he could have helped himself to clear the debt by placing the club in administration, thereby imperilling even League One status – but he didn’t.
Make no mistake, Short has much to answer for. In the last year in particular he did zero to revive SAFC: until Sunday.
But the notion that he was to blame for everything – and I’m sorry that there isn’t a nicer way to phrase this – is just plain daft.
The root of Sunderland’s spectacularly awful last two years is the debt. Who is to blame for that?
Many people: not just the egressing owner.
The accumulation of debt started years ago, when whoever came first in an astonishingly lengthy list of bad signings arrived.
It goes on to recent events, such as the announcement that the current CEO had managed to generously donate £4.3million to needy agents for the signing of £1.5million worth of “talent”.
It wasn’t, for example, Ellis Short’s fault that financially disastrous signings were made, Jack Rodwell and Ricky Álvarez perhaps chief among them, although there are literally dozens of other examples.
It wasn’t Short’s fault that Gardner, Colback, Bardsley and Steven Fletcher all left for free when they were worth fees while under contract.
You can’t force players to leave, or other clubs to pay for them.
It wasn’t Short’s fault that Allardyce left. Or that Sunderland’s best player and £10million signing got himself jailed.
Every Sunderland manager over the last 10 years, in varying degrees, wasted money. Even Allardyce paid Dame N’Doye’s wages for half a season – with Short’s money.
Of course, the biggest blow to finances was relegation from the Premier League. Was Short to blame for that?
Partly yes, but it isn’t terribly controversial to suggest that David Moyes’ “management” made a contribution too.
Many people are entitled to a percentage of the culpability: various managers for buying rubbish, Margaret Byrne, Martin Bain, Lee Congerton, Roberto De Fanti...
And let’s not forget all those players who just couldn’t be bothered to earn their colossal salaries.
Committed Short-haters will now be gulping to blather the rhetorical question: “Well who appointed them all?”
But only in the smugness of hindsight can that “argument” be used.
Who thought, at the time of their appointments that Martin O’Neill, Moyes, Byrne, or any of them would do such ruddy awful jobs?
There is one exception to this. One appointment that we watched through our fingers before it was even made.
What was Short thinking when he took on Paolo Di Canio; an incompetent, stiff-armed bully who should never have been appointed (as reflected by his ongoing unemployment)?
We thought Di Canio would be terrible – and he was. Like a thousand other new managers he won a couple of games early on, before losing 6-1 at Aston Villa, which was to prove rather more indicative of his capabilities.
He then signed more rubbish than any of them before blaming this on De Fanti, who was also terrible.
But final say-so on all player recruitment was Di Canio’s – as was the policy of needlessly antagonising the existing squad.
Yet even then, the mistake of appointing such a man was an honest one. It was as well intended as it was wrong – or badly advised. And once a manager is in place, any manager, he must be trusted and left to do his job.
The Short era ended with him over £200million poorer, the club at an all-time low, two leagues further down and not too far from extinction. It was a failure. I will never join his fan club.
Two Saturdays ago was the worst day in Sunderland’s history.
But blaming Ellis Short for everything is an infantile alternative to actually thinking about things properly.