ELLIS Short says his vision of the future is of regular top-10 finishes for Sunderland – with the Black Cats gaining the respect of the football world.
In a rare public interview, the club’s American owner spoke of his delight at the job Martin O’Neill is doing, the importance of the fans’ continued backing to the club’s progress, and his hopes for Sunderland generally.
“I hate to make projections but I would like it if we’re not in a relegation battle ever again, and I would also like to finish in the top 10,” he said.
“But rather than just a top 10 finish, I’d like it if we could finish comfortably within the top 10.
“I’d like more respect in the league, which comes from better performance and better league table position.
“I’d like it if when the big teams come here to play, they are afraid of losing.
“It would be nice that when the big teams come, rather than the pundits talking about them taking maximum points from the ‘likes of Sunderland’, I’d rather they were talking about how tough a match it’s going to be and how they could very likely lose.”
To get to that point though, Short has reiterated the point that his predecessor as chairman, Niall Quinn, constantly made – that fans’ backing is key.
“It’s very important for the fans to show their support,” he added.
“Since Martin has joined, there has been a noticeable increase in the noise around the stadium – and it certainly seems like the fans’ support is stronger since he joined.
“That’s the kind of support we want going forward. The better the support, the better chance we have on the pitch.
“That’s one of the reason we froze ticket prices. We’re not really interested about the amount of money we can make from the supporters.
“What we’re really interested is getting the supporters there and getting them singing, cheering and fully behind the team. That’s what helps us do better on the pitch.”
Short came on board originally as an investor, as part of the Drumaville Consortium, before taking over sole ownership at the end of the 2008-09 season, and O’Neill is his third manager after Steve Bruce and Roy Keane.
Thrilled with the impact the Northern Irishman has made, Short has privately admitted that his primary job at the moment is to keep the new manager happy.
And he spoke of his admiration of the job done so far.
“Martin has been a tremendously positive influence on the club,” he said.
“Most importantly of course, on the pitch, we are in a much different situation and in a much more positive place and feel much more optimistic.
“Off the pitch, he has been fantastic as well. He is a very intelligent and engaging guy, easy to deal with and also, importantly, his enthusiasm has lifted the whole place.
“I’m happy with the club’s overall progress on the pitch. Since Martin has joined, I think we have played very well.”