Takeover talks collapse: Why and where next for Sunderland and Simon Grayson?

Ellis Short
Ellis Short
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After weeks of inactivity, circumstances at Sunderland changed dramatically within a matter of hours.

Of course, the upshot is that much remains as it was.

Teaming up again: Simon Grayson and assistant Glynn Snodin on the day they took charge at Preston.

Teaming up again: Simon Grayson and assistant Glynn Snodin on the day they took charge at Preston.

Ellis Short is the chairman and 100% shareholder of the club. Jermain Defoe has left for Bournemouth, though that has been one of the worst kept secrets in the game over the last month. Fabio Borini headed to AC Milan for a medical and to confirm his switch. The destination may have been a surprise, but the departure certainly was not.

Sunderland are left without a senior recognised striker, but a revamp in that department was always going to be necessary, whoever the manager, whoever the owner.

The big move, clearly, saw Simon Grayson move from frontrunner and bookies’ favourite to the next manager of the club.

Sunderland approached Preston and with Grayson keen, permission was granted. With a compensation clause already written into his contract, there was no need for haggling.

Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson

So with that crucial issue settled, where next?

The task at hand is monumental, with not much more than a month until Derby County visit the Stadium of Light on the opening night of the Championship season.

The ownership

The news that Ellis Short would not be selling the club was met with dismay on Wearside.

After a turgid year, the feeling was unquestionably that only change at the very top would allow the kind of change that could spark a revival.

Just minutes after Preston North End confirmed that the club had permission to speak to Simon Grayson, Sunderland released the following statement: “Recently, we informed supporters that discussions were taking place with parties who had expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of Sunderland AFC. Subsequently, more detailed talks were held over the last week with one of these groups.

“Ellis Short and the board were committed to ascertain if this group was better placed to take the club forward in the right way and to improve it, both on and off the pitch,” it added.

“A defined timeframe was placed on discussions to ensure that the club could move forward quickly and decisively with its plans for the new season should they not come to fruition.

“We have concluded these talks and have determined that this proposed sale would not be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC.

“Ellis Short will continue his commitment to the club, both financially and personally, moving forward.

“We would like to thank our supporters for their patience during what we know has been a period of uncertainty and frustration for them.

“Preston North End have granted us permission to speak with Simon Grayson regarding the manager’s position.”

So what went wrong?

Short had been insistent ever since news broke that he would be interesting in selling the club that he would only sanction a change in ownership if he felt it was in the best interests of Sunderland.

Clearly, too, he was eager to make a good return on the substantial amount of money invested in the club.

Doubts had been there from the beginning about whether a German consortium had the funds to both buy the club and then take it forward. Their prolonged and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to buy Hull underlined those concerns.

As for the American investors watching on, time always looked like being too short and the departure of the Fulwell73 figureheads was a blow.

Nevertheless, the departure of numerous key individuals behind the scenes, and the way McInnes cooled on the job, suggested a sale was closer than ever,

That collapse puts Short back in the spotlight, and the level to which he now invests will be key.

He will not underwrite a significant spend and accumulation of debt as Mike Ashley did, but will he give Grayson the tools to stabilise and push forward? Similarly, takeover talk is over for now, but how soon will it return?

Backroom staff

One of the most pressing issues as pre-season began at the Academy of Light was not just the lack of a manager but the lack of a backroom team.

Robbie Stockdale offered a steady pair of hands as preparations began, while goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker also offers experience and stability.

The departure of Paul Bracewell, however, left the Black Cats short and Grayson has brought in Glynn Snodin. Snodin – brother of one-time Sunderland loanee Ian – has been Grayson’s assistant since their time together at Leeds United.

It had initially been suggested that Grayson may look to bring first team coach Steve Thompson with him, but Stockdale looks set to continue in his role for the forseeable future while Thompson has already been touted as a potential successor at Deepdale.

Grayson will be pleased to have made quick inroads in this department with the side to leave for a five day training camp in Austria in the coming days. Further additions, however, would not be a surprise.


The departures of chief football officer Simon Wilson and chief scout Mick Doherty also mean a revamp of the scouting and recruitment department is certain in the coming weeks and months.

Chief executive Martin Bain identified recruitment as a long-standing issue at the club and one of the main reasons for the perilous finances that so blighted their attempts to become a stable Premier League side.

After the arrival of Moyes and Doherty things arguably worsened, with a string of disastrous signings over the last 12 months.

The Black Cats will be operating in a different environment now and will doubtless be keen to tap into Grayson’s network. He has found a number of players in the lower leagues of England, the Scottish league and even the Irish league whose values have increased significantly at Deepdale.

That approach would be most welcome on Wearside.


Sunderland players arrived back at the Academy of Light yesterday and the need for quick, significant inroads in the transfer market is clear.

A number of players are still away or returning from international duty, but the numbers are threadbare and the depth and variety required to make a success of the Championship campaign is notably missing.

With Defoe and Borini not reporting for duty, the Black Cats start their preparations without a senior recognised striker.

John O’Shea is set to stay on but, at the heart of defence, more is needed. In central midfield there are plenty of options but in the wide areas a major injection of pace and creativity is needed.

If Vito Mannone is to leave, a new number one needs to be found.

Aiden McGeady is linked with a move to Wearside, having sparkled under Grayson towards the end of last season, but that will have to be merely the start of a dramatic overhaul.

What they do in the market will have a major bearing on the fans mood when the season starts.