THE Echo’s annual Big Sunderland Survey has sent a clear signal from supporters to chairman Ellis Short that he must spend big this summer to lift the club out of the Premier League doldrums.
Sunderland finished 14th last season, but that did not mask the fact that the club spent more than 90 per cent of last season in the relegation zone.
The season before, the Black Cats finished 17th in the table, just outside the relegation zone.
Even though the Wearsiders finished immediately above the bottom three in 2012-13, Sunderland allowed their Player of the Season, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, to join Liverpool and also let their chief creative attacker Stephane Sessegnon move on, to West Brom.
And on the evidence of our annual survey of fans’ opinions, Sunderland supporters clearly believe the time has come for the club to spend big in order to revive their Premier League fortunes.
The paper asked Sunderland fans how much they thought needed to be spent by the club this summer and well over half of the thousands who replied said the club needed to aim for the £30-40million bracket.
That sort of spending would mark a real break with the American owner’s outlay last summer when his tinkering with balancing the books saw little in the way of genuine spend on transfer fees.
Short’s cautious spending, which kept the Black Cats well within the financial fair play regulations, can hardly have judged to have been a success.
And Sunderland fans believe a genuinely significant outlay is needed if the club is to fulfil head coach Gus Poyet’s top-10 ambitions.
While the comfortable majority thought that a major spend was necessary this summer, it was interesting to see that a quarter of fans thought that a more modest £10-20million would be enough to turn Sunderland’s fortunes around.
For those fans pushing for the permanent signing of Fabio Borini, who cost Liverpool £10.5million to sign, that sort of outlay would accommodate the full-time purchase of Sunderland’s Young Player of the Season while also allowing strengthening in other areas.
A significant 15 per cent of fans, however, thought that Sunderland needed to spend in excess of £40m to put the club into a higher bracket.
That’s unlikely to happen with Short pursuing a more prudent financial approach and also constrained by the financial fair play regulations. But a decision to back Poyet with big spending would not be unwelcome as far as most fans are concerned.
What is obvious, though, is that fans think that significant investment is needed in a squad which has bumped in and around the bottom three of the Premier League for far too long.
Only half-a-dozen fans in our whole poll suggested that the club would be able to get by on spending nothing!