Sunderland are at a crossroads in their history.
What happens on the pitch over the next four Premier League games doesn’t matter a jot - Sunderland will be playing Championship football in August come what may. However, what happens off the pitch in the coming weeks does matter. A lot.
The decisions taken in the corridors of power at the Stadium of Light will have repercussions for years to come. Sunderland’s finances were released last week and as expected the picture remains bleak. Very bleak.
Sunderland announced a huge £33million loss for the year up to July 31, 2016. At a time when there is more riches than ever before, Sunderland made another huge loss.
The debt actually came down from £133.2 million to £110.4 million but that level of debt heading into the Championship is unsustainable, especially once the parachute payments dry up provided the Black Cats don’t bounce back quickly.
The mammoth wage bill will be cut, in part by those players leaving on frees or sold, while there are clauses in the majority of the playing contracts that will see those remain have their wages cut.
But in order to mount a serious promotion bid in a competitive Championship then the Sunderland manager - David Moyes as things stand - will need funds - significant funds to reshape a squad that will be torn apart.
The likes of Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini, Lamine Kone will all depart, Jordan Pickford likely to be moved on to for a substantial fee.
John O’Shea and Victor Anichebe may earn new deals but the likes of Jan Kirchhoff, Joleon Lescott and Steven Pienaar will be leaving. The trio of loan players sent back to their parent clubs.
It will leave behind a squad in need of serious investment. There will be some bargains to be had in the free agent market, while loan options, as ever, will be a viable option.
But there will still have to be significant investment in the squad if the club is serious about mounting a promotion challenge. Ellis Short admitted the club’s financial performance won’t be fixed overnight.
He’s right. Of course. But the owner will have to put his money where his mouth is if he wants to see the club back at the top table.
As we’ve reported, those discussions will also be a key factor in whether Moyes sticks around beyond the end of this season.
Moyes has come under increasing pressure from fans but if he is to stay then he will want assurances from the very top that Sunderland will have the finances to mount a serious challenge.
If they don’t, then the Stadium of Light will be hosting Championship football for years to come.