Sunderland have been relegated to the third tier of English football for only the second time in the club’s proud 139-year history.
Owner Ellis Short - looking to sell the club - is under fire from angry supporters following back-to-back relegations.
Here, we ask five key questions of the Sunderland owner, now based in the US.
Why were no funds provided to strengthen the squad in January?
Sunderland’s Premier League spending was clearly unsustainable and few would disagree that with the debt at such a troubling level, some degree of prudence is necessary. Nevertheless, the squad was lacking in crucial areas (up front and in goal) and it would not have taken a substantial investment to give Chris Coleman a strong chance of keeping the side in the league.
Is the club any closer to finding new ownership?
At a recent meeting with supporters groups, including the Red & White Army, Martin Bain offered some much needed and much welcomed insight into the proposed takeover of the club. While such matters are of course bound and required to remain confidential to an extent, this is without question the defining issue facing the club. Last summer’s uncertainty had a clear impact on preparation the team for the campaign and while any business transaction of this scale is complex, the same simply cannot be allowed to happen again.
If not, will you meet Chris Coleman to thrash out a plan for rebuilding?
That Chris Coleman has not been able to keep the team in the league has been a disappointment for all, including the man himself. Nevertheless, his honesty, accountability, willingness to play young talent and vision for the club’s future offers hope that this relegation can lead to some positive developments. While the reasons for stepping away from the club are understandable, it is surely unsustainable not to have any dialogue with the club’s manager, even if a sale is being actively pursued. The time has surely come to sit round the table and hear first hand what needs to change, and how it can be done.
Will any funding be available for the manager this summer?
Any owner who is funding a wage bill the size of Sunderland’s would be entitled to feel that it should be enough to compete and indeed win League One. Indeed, the manager himself has already said that it will not take a ‘King’s Ransom’ to turn things around. A move to recruiting younger, hungrier talent at a lower cost to the club would be welcomed by all. That will take a small budget but a budget nevertheless. If the club cannot be sold in the short-term, can some level of investment in the squad be offered?
Can the club realistically achieve your stated aim without investment in the squad?
In the last address to supporters, it was said that the stated goal for Sunderland was to get back into the Premier League and compete for a top-half finish. Since then, the club has gone back onto the market and most would accept that this is the best option for the club. If there is no sale, what is the goal then? The lack of investment in January was starkly at odds with the message put across in that interview. If the objective is merely to survive while putting the club on more stable financial footing, then fans putting their hands in their pockets deserve to be told it straight.