What follows started life as a passionate, sorrowful missive that one of the 2,650 poor souls who sat in the away section at the Hawthorns on Saturday intended to post to the SAFC owner, Ellis Short. Whether he couldn’t find a stamp or was just overtaken by the pace of events hardly matters. The thoughts, suitably tweaked to take account of those events, remain valid and apply to the immediate future as much as they did to the closing stages of the short PDC era. The author is a southern-based exile, known to Monsieur Salut, who prefers to remain anonymous …
Dear Mr Short,
Getting home from the WBA game, I felt a pressing desire to write to you and share my thoughts. Subsequent events haven’t weakened that desire even if I didn’t quite get round to posting the original letter.
Being an exile living in London now, I only attend 10 to a dozen games every year but I’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate as the case may be) to have been to most of the opening games this season.
Although you’ve only been involved with my club for a few years, I get a sense from your programme notes and media quotes that we have got under your skin and you share our passion, that you really do seem to “get it”: the region, the club, the fans, everything. It’s always been a rollercoaster ride supporting Sunderland. There have been good times under Peter Reid (Quinn and Phillips in their pomp), various promotions and some more difficult times under managers such as McMenemy, Wilkinson, and McCarthy.
Your period at the club has seen us deliver so many positives off the pitch: boardroom stability, financial input, improved commercial activity this season and the club really does seem to be trying to buy into the fans’ passion.
For a moment, it seemed the magic carpet might finally be taking off. Yet once again, the playing side of the club seemed unable to shake the monkey off its back. There is nothing new in this; strong and capable managers have wilted under the pressure of expectation in the region which culminated last season in your correct decision in the eyes of most of the fans to dispense with the services of Martin O’Neil, who so many believed would deliver the success we have all been striving for, for so long.
The vast majority of the fans favoured the new brush approach of the newly departed head coach as the malaise in the playing staff of last season needed sorting out, and I’m guessing he said he’d take the job provided he was given a blank canvas with which to work from.
Change was needed but we found ourselves, come Saturday, without our three best players from last season (Mignolet, Ses, and Danny Rose) and with no one of their calibre having arrived as replacements in the summer.
For the record, I would only have kept Rose out of those three and in fairness, I’m guessing Spurs would not sell. Sadly we now find ourselves five games in and with no idea of our best XI, which has left us with one point where we should realistically have possibly had eight from the teams we have played.
The pivotal point at WBA was the injury to Steven Fletcher which left us with 10 men, and the defeat which followed, but which more importantly leaves us without our “main man” for the forthcoming months. While this is not directly PDC’s fault, when we signed up to the new manager, we knew he would be single-minded and not just a little maverick, a side of which we saw when he came on the pitch to talk to us at the full-time whistle. This was met with a mix of applause, boos but mostly bewilderment.
But that was Paolo, his way. I was not sure then how quickly his stock had fallen in the boardroom – or, equally importantly – with the fans. Now we know the answer to the first part of that.
I had desperately hoped your brave gamble – his appointment – would pay off. You probably had more to lose than most of us, but emotionally we have far more to lose than you. Trust me we do.
You’re an exceedingly successful businessman and you don’t get to where you are without making tough and sometimes ruthless decisions during that rite of passage.
All I ask of you now is that you continue to be strong in those decisions, whether that be in your appointment and handling of the new manager, how he is allowed to act in the winter transfer window when you might have been hoping prudence would prevail or in generally making the necessary changes that may become necessary in order to maintain our place in the Premier League.
When the dressing room is lost by any manager, then change is imperative. You have made that change … but your next decisions are monumentally important to the club we love and you, with massive commitment, have adopted.
Mackem Down South
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