Poor Grayson’s just clearing up a mess
ELLIS Short has been about as beneficial to the city of Sunderland as austerity, shipyard closures and Alan Shearer. Banners around the Stadium of Light attest to that. So do vast tracts of empty red seats. Internet forums bubble with bile.
The man from Missouri bought the club in 2008, promising regular top-ten finishes in the Premier League. He spoke about earning the “respect” of opponents. Of making Sunderland’s windswept fortress a place to fear.
Nine years on, it is merely a half-empty hulk of discontent and despondency. Dreams of Europe have become a battle to avoid League One. Debts have trebled to £141m, an astounding achievement in an era when top-flight clubs are swimming in cash.
Huge sums have been wasted on duds and mercenaries utterly bereft of heart, guts and responsibility. Managers jettisoned willy-nilly.
So far has the financial deteriorated that Simon Grayson, appointed in June, was given just £1.25m to spend on new players. Only Barnsley, QPR, Burton, Millwall and Bolton spent less.
Until Short sells up, thousands have vowed to stay away, unwilling to pour cash into the pockets of an owner whose sole aim now appears to be clawing back a bad investment.
The situation is a mess, and a fourth straight defeat at home to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night did nothing to soothe festering sores.
Yet, for all the calamities and cock-ups wrought by Short, the American would be foolish to listen to supporters clamouring for Grayson’s head. Results are dire. Performances grim. The last three games have yielded a grand total of four shots on target. Frustration is understandable. But what did anybody expect after seven games? Grayson isn’t a magician. He inherited a squad that was battered on a weekly basis for 12 months. A dressing room that – according to the Black Cats’ own midfielder Darron Gibson – was riddled with players who “didn’t care”. Then he was given a million quid to dispel those demons, the equivalent of using a dustpan and brush to clean up after Glastonbury. Jose Mourinho wouldn’t have done anything different, other than bitch and moan. The facts are simple. Sunderland are haemorrhaging money and have been for a number of years. Short, who is owed £58m by the club, is no longer putting his hand in his pocket. The 56year-old owner knew a lengthy stay in the Championship was a possibility – and Grayson was appointed purely on that basis.
The former Preston boss knows the division. He knows how to sign players for a pittance. He knows how to cook up a passable dish from the basest of ingredients.
He did it at Leeds, at Huddersfield and Preston. Given time and a couple of transfer windows, the 47-year-old will do it again at Sunderland.
For Mackems, it stings to know your owner will settle for solidity. That being a decent Championship team is the scope of his ambition. To many, Grayson is the emblem of all Short’s broken promises.
But that doesn’t mean he should carry the can. Sunderland are poor because they’ve been abjectly governed for a decade, not because Grayson has lost four games. In fact, one of the reasons for those eye-watering debts were the pay-offs doled out to hastily sacked managers. That cycle needs to stop. With an unrealistic £100m asking price dangling from the Stadium of Light, would-be saviours are running for the hills. Short – for now, at least – is sticking around. And until he goes, fans should aim their anger at the man in the boardroom, not the one hired to clean up his mess.