Monsieur Salut writes: this is really the new instalment of Guess the Score. Enter below the scoreline you expect, hope or fear at Ashton Gate on Saturday. If you are first with the correct result, you will win a prize though you must have a UK delivery address to receive it. Ha’way the Lads and all that but forgive me if there seems very little else worth saying about a game most of us probably have uneasy feelings about while hoping for the best …
Yes, I got angry at the weekend and directed some of my anger at our absent, reluctant owner. Yes, he has plenty to answer for.
One crass comment in his tame, underarm bowling sort of interview with the official club site in November particularly annoyed me. He complained that anything that appeared in the media about him was based on speculation or invention because “I don’t talk to the press”.
Entitled as he is in a free society to adopt such a lofty distance, however accountable he should arguably feel towards the public, he is far too bright not to realise the connection between cause and effect.
If Short won’t be open about matters that happen to be of enormous interest to a loyal but perpetually suffering fan base, he can have no legitimate grievance if reporting falls short of his concept of accuracy.
Of the aborted summer takeover process, Short said: “At that time I was entertaining offers to buy the club and I had hired an adviser to process that. I guess the first thing I should say is that everything that was written in the media about that was wrong, not really remotely resembling the truth other than one thing – there was one group that we did have some advanced discussions with.
“I decided not to do that transaction and I have heard some criticism that because of the depth of emotion that I should be out, that possibly I should have done that. But that comes from people who don’t know anything about the circumstances of that transaction, don’t know anything about the circumstances of the buyer.”
Everything, or nearly everything, written about it was wrong? From his US retreat, did he take steps to ensure the media was as well-informed as possible? Did he tell his chief executive Martin Bain that while he couldn’t bring himself to talk to the wicked reptiles, he should – if only to ensure the alleged misreporting did not happen or was rectified?
My vested interest is that I am a journalist, though my coverage of football is mostly limited to what appears here (my little arrangement with ESPN came to an end last May; Sunderland were relegated and so, consequently, was I). But if I am permitted a j’accuse moment, it would be to declare that Short cannot have it both ways.
More generally, the wretched decisions of recent years have been made on his watch and he must accept that the buck ultimately stops at his door, far from the Stadium of Light or even the UK as that door may currently be. His undoubted business skills do not appear quite so convincing when applied to running a club that should, on his own assessment, at least be stablished in the top half of the Premier League.
I question the wisdom of allowing the club to be so starved of proper resources that it cannot even compete in the Championship, or seem attractive to possible buyers, but he has a right to question the commitment of players who were plying their trade in the Premier League only last season and cannot now look competent a division lower.
That said, I believe the owner when he says he’s a fan, that he is as frustrated as us. So while strongly critical, I do not suggest he bears all the responsibility for our pathetic current state.
Many supporters will feel I am letting him off the hook. In the unlikely event that he reads this, Short might feel even my comments are harsh. Another of his entitlements is that the pages of Salut! Sunderland are open to him should he wish to respond, though perhaps we won’t be holding our breath.
Oh, and this is Guess the Score for Sunderland’s daunting trip to the West Country, where our hosts are enjoying the sort of season we rather hoped might be our experience of being back in th Championship.