If Ellis Short does not quite observe a Trappist vow of silence, he is a man of few words, in public at least. But now he plans a rare interview about his ownership of – and plans for – Sunderland AFC …
You’d almost think the Pope, the Queen or Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali were about to bare their souls to the world live on network TV.
The North-eastern press is solemnly reporting that Ellis Short, esteemed owner of Sunderland AFC, is – to quote the Sunderland Echo – to “make another address to the club’s fans in the near future”.
Fair enough, though. Short – and our usual thanks to A Love Supreme and for Robin’s excellent caricature – bought into SAFC three years ago but apart from being photographed at games, has publicly expressed himself only once, in an interview for the club’s TV channel. Now he intends to repeat the exercise to talk about his commitment to the club and his vision for the future.
Niall Quinn chose to whet appetites with news of the event while attending a talk-in at Whiteleas Social Club in South Shields.
“He is not your quintessential foreign owner who might come to a Premier League club looking to make a quick profit,” said Quinny. “He gets as agitated at referees as any of us.”
“He’s as happy as any of us at us scoring a goal. And he probably gets more excited about players on other sides diving or injustices.”
For all that passion, he’s publicity-shy. Hence the build-up to an interview, any interview (it would be unrealistic to expect too many tough questions to be lobbed Mr Short’s way).
Quinny is clearly a fan. “I think he’s as near as you’ll get to a perfect owner.”
But he is also happy to invoke the owner’s support for his own stand on falling attendances.
After saying Short would go on funding the club as long as he felt it “the right thing to do to grow the business”, he sounded a warning about the implications of a continued decline in Stadium of Light gates. In such circumstances, Quinn said, he would regard it as his duty to tell the board – and, more pertinently, the owner – it might be wise to consider cutting investment, too.
“Ellis Short isn’t just doing this for fun,” he said. “He’s building up an asset on his portfolio and part of what keeps him interested are the efforts of ourselves and our fans to make it work.”
So, if we are honest, there is no reason to get too worked up about what Short might end up saying. But it will be interesting all the same.
Think back to the end of May 2009. We’d narrowly escaped relegation and Short gave a series of answers (again in an interview for the official club site; memory defeats me, so maybe it was just a transcript of what he told the safc.com channel).
Salut! Sunderland reported on that interview in these terms:
Ecstasy, relief, gratitude to the fans and, in defiance of instructions from Niall Quinn to say how far Sunderland AFC can go, a willingness to stipulate a top 10 finish next season as the first step on that route.
That, in short and in Short’s own words, is Ellis, newly elevated to 100 per cent control of the club.
Not the most illuminating, incisive interview you’ll ever come across – more Parkinson with favoured guests than Parky with Meg Ryan – but the proper response is probably merci for small mercies. What’s more, I’ve also had to interview my own bosses at times, so I know the score …
Our full piece from then can be seen by clicking here. If anyone can trace the original item on the club site, I’d appreciate that link, too.
Short didn’t get his top 10 finish last year, though he should have done. Most of us would be deeply disappointed it didn’t come in May and he, no doubt, would be apoplectic.
I loved this quote from 2009: “I don’t ever want to go through a relegation battle again and I don’t want the fans to have to go through it, I don’t want Niall to have to go through it … And in the longer term we just want to continue to improve and always run things well.”
Maybe this time, he’ll mark the subsequent improvement in our fortunes by saying: “I don’t ever want to finish as low as 13th ever again, I don’t want the fans to have to go through it, I don’t want Niall to have to go through it.”
will be along these lones: