Former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan says Sunderland have got 'no leadership' - and that Ellis Short needs to be more committed to the club.
The Black Cats have been hit by more negative headlines after midfielder Darron Gibson was filmed slamming fellow players in a drunken rant after the 5-0 hammering at home to Celtic.
Jordan, speaking on Talksport, said Gibson was 'stupid' but that manager Simon Grayson could potentially use the incident to galvanise the squad ahead of Friday's season-opener at home to Derby County.
However, he was scathing of owner Short, who tried to sell the club in the summer before committing to the new season.
Jordan said: "The big tragedy for Sunderland, and you look at them in the January transfer window, they are selling players to Crystal Palace who were in the same position as Sunderland, and you wonder why that was.
"It can't be easy for Sunderland supporters and managers. I'm an ex-owner and I don't want to throw brickbats at owners because I was one but they've got no leadership and if your club isn't right at the top it won't be right down the pyramid.
"That means you ultimately make wrong managerial appointments, managers are left slightly adrift from what the club wants to do.
"I wouldn't be Ellis Short because I'd be more committed to my football club than he is. But I'd be saying to my manager you've got to mange the situation, you've got to deal with this properly and I expect you to come out on Friday evening and give Derby a proper game."
Gibson, who was a second-half substitute against Celtic, has failed to impress since signing for Sunderland in January and Jordan was critical of the way he conducted himself in front of fans.
He added: "You don't go from Manchester United to Everton and then arrive at Sunderland because your career is going on the right stretch, do you?
"It was ill-advised, it was stupid. I don't think it's a sacking offence but it's an opportunity for the manager to really assert himself and to do something positive with this, because Sunderland are in decline.
"It's adverse publicity, it's not what Sunderland need but it's here and how they handle it is a demarcation point for potentially what will happen in their season."