We’ll never know just what transfer promise Ellis Short made David Moyes when he convinced him to jump back into management with Sunderland last month. It’s safe to say, however, that there would have been one.
Moyes has been around the block too many times not to have taken the Black Cats job without having first sought some form of guarantees from the Texan about what budget he would have at his disposal.
The question now is, just how much money is there to spend? And more importantly, can it be spent – wisely – before Wednesday’s transfer deadline?
Sunderland’s last accounts, published in May, revealed another annual loss of around £25million.
If it hadn’t been for Ellis Short’s willingness to cover that deficit – admittedly, some of which he has to shoulder the blame for causing – then the club would be in serious trouble.
In former chief executive Margaret Byrne’s sole on-the-record interview with the Echo back in 2013, after similar poor financial figures were revealed, she spoke about the new TV deal being used to help ease debts and usher in fiscal stability.
Unfortunately, when that agreement came to an end, the club was in no better position. In fact, it looked a degree worse!
Now there is a new TV deal in town, one that blows the previous arrangement out the water.
Sunderland could finish bottom this season and still be guaranteed £100million.
It must be tempting for Short to think that this is the chance to clear the debt. Minimal investment on the pitch, bank the cash and ensure he no longer has to put his hand into his own pocket.
Looking at the Cats’ transfer business so far and you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s exactly what is happening.
The outlay this summer has been modest, certainly by Premier League standards.
Moyes has managed to bring in six new players at a combined cost of around £13.5million plus whatever the loan fees for acquiring Javier Manquillo and Adnan Janujaz were.
Approximately £6.5m has come in, with fees received for Santiago Vergini, Emmanuele Giaccherini and Younes Kaboul, while big earners like Jordi Gomez, Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham have been removed from the wage bill.
A net spend of a little more than £7million then.
There’s no doubt Sunderland still have more cash to splash. The £7m bid for Sevilla defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra shows that, while Moyes wants a striker to ease the burden on Jermain Defoe, and another goalkeeper after Vito Mannone’s injury.
Defence is another area for concern, with just veteran John O’Shea, Papy Djilobodji and Lamine Kone recognised centre-halves, though new arrival Paddy McNair can play in there too.
Asamoah Gyan has been linked with a cut-price return to Sunderland, six years after signing in a £13m move. The fact that he remains the record signing, despite the money coming in over an unbroken spell in the top flight, says a lot for how the belt has been tightened in recent years.
Short has a dilemma on his hands now. Without serious investment – either in the next couple of days or January – Sunderland run the risk of another relegation battle.
Having escaped by the skin of their teeth for a number of seasons, it could be one final fight they can’t win. If you keep going into a barber shop, you’re eventually going to get a haircut.
But push the boat out – paying for quality, proven Premier League performers to go alongside the youth and potential of Adnan Janujaz, Donald Love, McNair and Javier Manquillo – and it could be a prosperous season for Sunderland.
Short believes he has the right manager in Moyes. He waited long enough for him, having tried on a few occasions to lure him north.
It would be a crying shame if, having finally got his man, he didn’t provide him with the tools to do the job to the best of his ability. Whatever those transfer budget talks were, it’s time to deliver.