The Robson Report: Appreciating Mr Short

While Len Shackleton’s assessment of “what the average director knows about football” may be even truer now than it was in the ’50s,  Jeremy Robson is grateful to have our owner on board.


Like many other fans, I am feeling quite dizzy after the whirlwind start to Magic Martin’s start at the SoL. Amidst the hoopla associated with the exciting wins at the death over Blackburn, QPR and Man. City and the stunning goal feast at Wigan it’s easy to forget the main man who is ultimately responsible for our sudden renaissance. That man is our Chairman and owner Mr Ellis Short.

Ellis Short is not a man to seek the limelight like owners of many clubs. He gets on with running the club in the same way that he has run his various enterprises so successfully that he’s a billionaire. He is not a man who fails, and he’s demonstrated with the appointment of our current manager that he recognises the requirements to make this club as successful as his other ventures.

There’s little doubt that the previous chairman Niall Quinn was a keen advocate for Martin O”Neill having tried unsuccessfully to lure the Irishman to Wearside on at least one previous occasion. A successful man like Mr Short knows that there is a time and a place for everything. There was time to question the management of Roy Keane when things were going wrong. Roy didn’t seem to like having to be accountable and took a walk.

Steve Bruce’s appointment was probably the right one at the time it was made as he brought Premier League management experience to the training ground and dug out. Managing a club the size of Sunderland was clearly a step too far for Bruce, even though his very good eye for a player was let down by tactical naivete, combined with an inability to get the best out of the resources at his disposal. Niall Quinn was a loyal supporter of Bruce, and Ellis Short depended on his Chairman for football advice. Quinn’s visible loyalty to Bruce superseded his judgment and regardless of what the PR machine might have to say to the contrary, there are probably few observers of SAFC related matters who would see Quinn’s departure and the subsequent sacking of Steve Bruce as unrelated. Would Steve Bruce still be at the helm were Quinn still the Sunderland Chairman? We may never know the answer to that question of course. At the same time, would we have been able to bring in Martin O’Neill as his successor.  Despite the admiration and affection that I have for Niall Quinn, and the immense gratitude that he rightfully warrants from the Sunderland faithful, I would suggest that the answer would be an emphatic “No.” We live in times where irresponsibility of football club owners seems to be at an unprecedented high.

We are very fortunate to have such a talented and intelligent business man as our owner. Ellis Short didn’t make his fortune selling trainers on a market stall, or from chicken farming. He made his fortune in the tough financial world, where judgement and timing are of the essence, and has brought those qualities to his stewardship of Sunderland Football Club. We owe a big thank you to Martin O”Neill for his wonderful start, which has put a smile on our faces, but thank you Ellis with all my heart for bringing Martin O’Neill to us.

11 thoughts on “The Robson Report: Appreciating Mr Short”

  1. Jeremy, I wasn’t suggesting that you were dismissive of Quinn. I agree totally about Short’s input and impact on recent events. I agreed with you at the time about Quinn’s support for Bruce, and that was probably the reason for his move sideways. I think that I have felt for him a bit in the aftermath of all that. Quinn is obviously a ‘people person’ if you like, and his judgement was distorted by personal loyalty. It has probably been a difficult period for him, but his continued commitment to SAFC and support for O’Neill speak of his decency and dignity.

    I think Short is a good counterpoint to Quinn in his efficient and more objective approach. Short , Quinn and O;Neill have complementary qualities which make for a fine grouping at the helm.

  2. It’s unfortunate if this article was suggesting anything other than a great debt and appreciation of NQ’s contribution to the well being and development of the club Hilary. It wasn’t intended that way, certainly. Quinn’s loyalty to Bruce extended beyond reasonable judgment and we all know that he had to go. I still have the view that he should have gone six months ago., Whether or not we’d have got O”Neill then we will never know of course, but there was a real danger that his misplaced and continued support for his manager was going to lead to long term damage to the club. Ellis was right to intervene when he did as although this may sound harsh he realised (and so did Niall) that his usefulness in the Chairman’s role had run out.

  3. I totally agree about Short, and seeing him in the context of other Premiership owners makes his value all the more apparent. You may be right about Niall and Bruce, but I still feel that we owe Quinn an enormous debt. Someone like O’Neill would never have come to the Club without the structure that Quinn has put in place over the years and his role in the aquisition of Short.

    Seeing Quinn in the stands at Wigan in the wind and rain cheering us on last week, reminded me again how much he has given of himself to the Club. It may very well be that he stood down as Chairman because of Bruce, but I suspect by the time Bruce went he would have also realised that the situation was beyond repair.

    What is striking is how good a fit are O’Neill, Short and Quinn . Compared with the the board and management at many other clubs they represent something ambitious, but also decent, thoughtful and committed. Short provides the financial savvy necessary, but you have a real feeling that they all will get on well together. After some of his experiences O’Neill must be very appreciative of this. Keane didnt realise how lucky he was and perhaps Bruce didnt, but I am sure O’Neill does.

  4. I think the fact that people are worrying about the bar being raised very high and unexpectedly just goes to show how little we have had to crow about for decades and in some people’s entire lifetimes.

    We haven’t qualifed for Europe, won the PL title or the FA Cup. We’ve had a canny run and won a few games as a result of having a proper manager in place at last. We are only in tenth place in the league, which of course is a huge improvement on where we were, just a few short weeks ago. It’s great that we are heading in the right direction but although it’s something of a shock in terms of the sudden turnaround there’s no need for anyone to become delirious, although my reference to being “dizzy” was reflective of an unprecedented and unexpected relief of pressure; Not unlike having an abcess lanced,

    • I fully expect a sense of realism to return soon, and hopefully the euphoria will be replaced by optimism and a degree of contentment.

      Your metaphor hits the mark. I once had a massive abcess in my mouth and when antibiotics weren’t working the dentist lanced it. The instant relief was enormous and I felt like I have felt the past few weeks.

      From the kick off of the 2nd half of the Blackburn game, the MON effect has been obvious. No doubt we have had some luck (Everton pen excepted) and results have been great. Things will settle down as the instant impact of the new manager wears off. But I’m not alone in thinking that we have someone in charge who will carry on taking the club forward. Previous regime’s have started brightly before seemingly running out of ideas.

      I don’t see that happening this time. I’ve a feeling the Chelsea game will bring us back to earth, but the real measure of the team’s progress will be the Swansea and Norwich games.

  5. Agree with Mark – we could add the Drumaville Consortium to that – they got the club stable and supported Roy. Mind – he then spent a lot of money on Cisse and Diouf!

  6. A well written and considered atricule Jeremy and makes everyone realise that the progress and orgainisation of the club has to be as much a team game as the progress on the pitch. Yoe need the correct personell in the correct position in order to allow advancement to take place.

    If that is not the case then you need somebody to make the decisions to allow it to happen, and Mr Short is that person.

    Now lets hope he backs MON with the same financial clout as the last manager and things could be rosey indeed.

  7. Excellent peice. Ellis Short has done an excellent job for us and deserves the plaudits.

    It’s so easy for fans to forget about the positive role of the owner when things are going well ,but then castigate him when things aren’t.

    Short, Quinn and O’Neill is the ideal partnership to take the club forward.

    I just hope that we see more of our home grown talent coming through. Wouldn’t it be great to see six or seven of our youngsters as the backbone of a successful Sunderland squad easily holding its own in the top half of the Premiership? Noble, Adams, Egan, Deacon,Laing, Tounkare , Colback, Meyler, Reed, Guerrin etc

  8. A great piece of work and a good reflection of the benifits of proper managment.
    Ellis Short is the unsung hero and a great enabler
    Martin looks like he is the missing link and brings the style and authority we have needed since I first started supporting in 1964

    My only worry is how quick the bar has been raised and we know what expectation has done in the past no doubt we are going to progress but as Martin has pointed out set backs are inevitable lets give both Ellis and Martin the time and support they need to deliver

    • Completely agree, Jeremy, Ellis is one of the best things to have happened to our club in the last 30-odd years (and that, in itself, is all down to Niall). So here is what I’m immensely grateful for, in order, over our recent history:
      1. Bob building the SOL
      2. Bob selling the club cheaply to Niall and his pals
      3. Roy lifting us up from a dire predicament
      4. Niall making Ellis a believer
      5. Ellis believing
      6. Ellis seeing that things were not on track and taking the right, decisive, action at the right time
      7. Ellis appointing Martin O’Neill as manager
      8. Martin O’Neill jumping at the chance. It’s a marriage made in heaven and we are seeing the benefits already

      Finally it feels that all the pieces are in place. The future is bright. It is Red and White.

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