Wise Man Says: the buck stops with Ellis Short

Nic Wiseman
Nic Wiseman

It’s a bit like ‘kindly’ but cane/slipper-wielding schoolmaster or parent of days gone by: ‘this is going to hurt me far more than it will hurt you.’ Sometimes, Salut! Sunderland feels obliged to publish items that raise serious and perhaps harsh criticism of the club or individuals within it. Our pages are ALWAYS open to reply from anyone feeling aggrieved at what appears here but we need to exercise care in the first place.

Nic Wiseman is a solid, long-established, thinking member of the SAFC-supporting family. He helped to create the excellent but short-lived fanzine It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand!. Though also critical, Monsieur Salut thinks Ellis Short may be more sinned against than sinning – money has been made available to managers and incompetently spent; it’s enough to make any boss bad-tempered – but Nic is fully entitled to take a sterner view. Here it is …

When’s the Teflon king going to take some of the heat?

Three games played, three games lost. One goal scored, against seven conceded. That’s Sunderland’s losing streak, peppered with a draw at home to West Brom, and before that there were a further three defeats. Go back further, we drew away to Southampton and the season kicked off with two defeats. To (re)emphasise the point, after 10 games, Sunderland remains without a win, and have managed two draws. Thus, basic maths says that we have lost eight games! Relegation form.

We’ve been here before: when Gus Poyet took over from Paolo Di Canio in 2013, we had amassed one point from eight games. But then we had Newcastle to play. There’s no such luxury this season, with our usual guaranteed six points not available.

David Moyes, the man courted by owner, Ellis Short, for the last two managerial vacancies, is in, it’s fair to say, a bit of a pickle.

With the awful record, some fans are getting restless. With each defeat, another meltdown on twitter ensues. With seasoned Sunderland “commentators” calling for the head of Moyes. Criticising his approach, his signings and the way he wears his shirt.

This is short-sighted (excuse the pun). The other day, your humble correspondent shared a cup of tea with a source close to the club and some interesting revelations emerged.

When Poyet departed the club in 2015, he left muttering about something rotten at the core of the club. And he wasn’t the first to make such comments. Ever since, fans have been trying to work out what he could possibly have meant.

Let’s look at the pattern of events. Our last reasonably good season, was 2009-10, when we managed to scrape into 10th place, under Steve Bruce. Bruce had a reasonable run of luck, buying Darren Bent and having saleable assets in Henderson and Bent. These funded new purchases. He also used the loan market well, with the likes of Nedum Onuoha and Danny Welbeck. Since then, we have had nobody worth selling, except Jordan Henderson and maybe Simon Mignolet. Sunderland have rarely been able to sell on a player for more money than they paid for him.

Bruce’s luck turned with injuries and suspensions, and he made the mistake of blaming the fans (never blame the fans). A 2-1 home defeat to Wigan saw Bruce leave to be replaced by self-professed Sunderland fan, Martin O’Neill, and the start of a mutual appreciation society began. For those first two months of his appointment, we all partied with Marty, who seemingly could do no wrong.

Then it all went sour, and Short first exhibited the length of his fuse by sacking O’Neill after a hardly criminal 1-0 Easter Saturday home defeat to Manchester United, who were on their way to Sir Alex Ferguson’s final championship title.

MoN was gone by Easter Monday and Paolo Di Canio was installed early the next week. Since O’Neill was sacked in 2013, Sunderland have had seven head coaches or managers.

I can now reveal — not that it takes a genius — that this rotten core is Short himself.

The man has a hot temper and has been on bad terms with every manager he has employed. Every bad decision the club has made has been down to Short. From the decision to play Adam Johnson — despite the club at least arguably knowing what he had done – to the club’s involvement in Africa.

The common denominator is that Short stumps up for the wronged party. See Margaret Byrne, the weary, former CEO of the club, without any football knowledge. By the tone of her confused farewell statement, who would you say had the final say on Johnson playing? It’s unlikely to have been her? When Johnson (inevitably) was found guilty, a furore ensued and Byrne took the blame. Guess who has provided Ms Byrne with social-media support for her new business? Yep, if indirectly, good old Ellis.

Another disastrous aspect of the Short era has been his hiring of people in top posts. Byrne, being a classic example. The commercial director is another. Pop concerts seem more important than the football team; we haven’t started the season with a home fixture since 2013 [is he to blame for the fixtures list computer? – Ed the club can request not to have home games as first fixture]. And what are we doing in Africa; is someone getting a fortnight on expenses? Short’s policy with filling the top posts, is to hire friends or friends of friends and let them get on with the job with impunity. Often with calamitous consequences.

The appointment of David Bain as CEO has however, bucked this trend. He has been transparent, reaching out to supporters’ groups, along with Moyes. Bain has admitted that the job he is doing now isn’t the one he expected. His main priority is to identify any savings that could release funds for Moyes. The women’s football team may not be immune, though the funds that axing this beacon of light would provide would be peanuts.

And what of the current situation? Moyes is installed, the man Short courted twice before finally getting his man. The fans are laying into Moyes, because of the transfers. In the transfer window he went after a long list of players, which included: Naismith, Mawson, Mason, Wilshere, Hart, Jagielka, Dunk and Evans — none of whom wanted to come to a tinpot club like ours. And Mr Short didn’t sanction funding for Bony, Ulloa and Deeney. The players that came in were the only ones Moyes could get his hands on at such late notice with one hand tied behind his back.

“What about the money”, I hear you all cry. The Premier League has just landed the most lucrative television contract in its history and the game is awash with money.

Mr Short’s priority, however, is to pay off the club debt. So while each manager/head coach received about a third of the amount he was promised in transfer funds, the rest of the Premier League riches are being used to service the debt. Not even George Osborne would be this austere. It also seems an odd way to run a business, especially one Short wants to be out of.

Even Mike Ashley’s actions have not been as questionable as Ellis Short’s.

So on Saturday, if we don’t happen to win at Bournemouth, resist the temptation to roast David Moyes.

“The vitriol being directed at Moyes, I fear, is going to have only one outcome if we lose at Bournemouth and to Hull,” my man says. Moyes has been hung out to dry by the owner, Teflon Short. Vent your ire, instead at the one man who can change things: Ellis Short.

5 thoughts on “Wise Man Says: the buck stops with Ellis Short”

  1. I agree with the general thrust of this article. We have been really badly mismanaged, and, the buck does indeed stop with the guy who makes the key decisions.

    I do accept that Mr Short has been poorly advised, particularly in managerial appointments. The choice of PDC was, frankly ludicrous, and I also groaned when Poyet was appointed. We have grown used to much of the nonsense articulated by people in football generally, but, IMO these two took illogical verbosity to a new level.

    The waste of money in paying off unsuccessful coaches, and in the transfer market, is simply mind bending. Mr Short must take some responsibility for this, even though the decisions were generally made by managers, and the now legendary Di Fanti, whose record of acquiring turkeys must be unparalleled given the short time he was in post.

    The appalling judgement of playing ability by some managers, many of whom were great players in their day, has always been a source of astonishment to me. Either this, or there must be some terrible scouts around [ I’m not sure scouts are used much these days. It appears that players are frequently judged on watching video clips ]

    The biggest mistake, IMO, that we have made in player recruitment, is buying players with little or no resale value. With the exception of the few mentioned in the article, we have failed to recoup almost anything from our acquisitions, and, ultimately, this is a financial kiss of death to present day football. The list of below average players, on decent wages, who have left our club for peanuts [ often after costing us plenty ] is virtually endless.

    Mr Short should have introduced a policy which, as far as is humanly possible, negates the chance of this happening. Not buying players over, say 26, would be a start. With very few exceptions, buying players even in their late 20’s is probably a wrong decision. Then again when it comes to making wrong decisions, we are up there with the best.

  2. Well said Nic. Agree with every word. Short’s administerial appointments have been disastrous on the whole and have resulted in his investments being squandered. Think how much we have wasted paying off managers before their contracts are up. Think how many players were signed who weren’t wanted by the manager or coach in charge of team selection by those in charge of player recruitment.

    Think about the abysmal public relations gaffs and lack of understanding of the region and the club’s supporters.

    Compare and contrast the treatment of Johnson (found guilty) with that of Cabral (found not guilty). Think about the Alvarez situation. Vergini likewise yet not M’Vila.

    The manager is an easy target when things aren’t going well. Things haven’t gone well under any manager for years and yes Allardyce seemed to have turned the corner but the summer business wasn’t going well before England got knocked out of the Euros. He didn’t seem happy even before the England job came up.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sunderland will not progress under Ellis Short’s stewardship. There’s no guarantee a change of ownership will advance the club, but we’ve no hope at all until there is.

    I don’t agree with M Salut that Short is more sinned against than sinning. It’s not just about putting money into the club. Ultimately he determines club policy and his policies have resulted in his money being squandered. Harry S Truman when US President said “the buck stops here”. At SAFC it stops with Short.

    • Quite right Malcom. Allardyce was on his way out before England came calling. He was about to resign due to being lied to by Short about the amount of funds available.

  3. The whole thing is a mess , the club not the article . I suppose the man or woman at the top ultimately takes the blame ,but the various managers have made some stinking decisions also . Short has put money in , our wage bill last season was reportedly the 8th biggest in the division and other teams have performed better by spending considerably less . The problem in my view ,is that we don’t speculate to accumulate . We don’t buy pricey but improving players like Rose or Allonso , M’Villa even with a view to future sell on’s . This leads to panic buying equally expensive players ,who are inferior with zero sell on value . The results suffer , the manager gets the push , too early in some cases and the whole circus rolls on and on with diminishing returns . I suppose I’m agreeing with the author but no one is blameless .

  4. Good article but I what I find amazing is that Short started on a venture about which he had little previous knowledge. He seems never to have come to grips with what Private Eye terms Planet Football. As to reducing the club’s debts, which are horrendous, is it not also a means of recouping some of his own losses, prior to selling his remaining interest in the club? I can understand this move because as MS states, one thing you cannot accuse Short of is underfunding.

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