It’s fair to say that recent results have brought about increased hope in the minds of Sunderland supporters the world over. We know there’s still a long way to go if the club is to get out of the mess in which it finds itself but where, only a few short weeks ago, there was nothing to be seen but the withering flower of certain relegation, the green shoots of optimism are poking through. Martin O’Neill’s sacking, Paulo Di Canio’s appointment, player revolts and Di Canio’s subsequent dismissal have provoked debate amongst the red and white faithful about just who is responsible for the precarious position which Gus Poyet inherited. Through it all the club’s owner Ellis Short has, by and large, escaped unscathed from criticism but never shy to vent his opinions, Salut! Sunderland’s Birflatt Boy has a question him.

The Three Stooges

Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument

Birflatt Boy adding weight to the argument

It’s time for Ellis Short to answer a few very simple questions. In fact he needs to answer only one simple question. What the bloody hell is going on at our club?

Paulo Di Canio has eventually spoken out about his time at Sunderland, brief though it was. Our former “coach” has revealed that he didn’t want any of the players that were signed during the summer. In fact he went on to say that he thought 80% of our players should be English. To the mind of a simple Birflattian, this is only confirming what most of us thought, and assumed was the basis of SAFC’s “new model.”

As we know, the early models of any car are more likely to spend considerably more time at the dealership with a whole host of glitches and problems than later models. This SAFC hot hatch was no exception. Back in the summer PDC made it clear that he wanted a playmaker. He “has to be English.” It was widely assumed that the player he was referring to was Tom Huddlestone, who went to Hull City. In retrospect it’s even more apparent that Huddlestone was the man he wanted, but PDC didn’t get him. Instead he was provided with a Korean loanee by way of Swansea. Our scouting is being led by two Italians who knew nothing (hopefully they know a little more now), about English football when they were given total responsibility for player recruitment. Significantly, Gus Poyet commented earlier this week to say that he wanted more input to player recruitment than his predecessor. Let’s bloody well hope so Ellis, because this model has become the Ford Edsel of the footballing world, and it needs to be overhauled right now.

PDC has carried the can for this whole mess and become the scapegoat for the failure of the team. Responsibility doesn’t rest solely with him. In the fullness of time, PDC may become a very good coach. He is possibly too honest and open about what he thinks, although few of us would argue against most of his opinions. Against that are serious questions about his judgment and approach to players.

At the top of this article I suggested that there was one question, but in reality there is another. If the two remaining Italians are responsible for player recruitment, then who is responsible for deciding which players are sold and when? Is this also the role of the scouts (and former agent), or is this Poyet’s job? Thoughts and opinions on a postcard please?


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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

27 Responses to “Birflatt Boy gives Sunderland’s recruitment policy Short shrift.” Subscribe

  1. tim November 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Ellis Short has been given an easy time of it by Sunderland supporters and understandably so given what he has at least tried to do for us.

    The two scouts should have also been send packing when Di Canio was given his cards. The only fellah that knew anything about the English game was the gaffer and he was given no control over the players he got. It might work in Udine but it won’t work on Wearside. Poyet is right by marking his card for him at the off. Personally I can’t see these two buffoons being given much more say in things.

  2. Plan B November 15, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I’ve just watched Di Canio’s interview and heard his comments on recruitment, stating clearly he had an input but didn’t get his first choice players. Let’s be clear here, there is no guarantee any manager would get his first choice players even if he was the only one involved in negotiations.

    It’s all very well saying ‘I want british players that can do this, that and the other’ but being able to attract and afford these players is not easy. How much did Everton pay for the lad from Wigan, wasn’t it 13m? British players come at a premium, goodness knows we’ve spent enough on home nation dross.

    Which brings me to Short. He has every right to be tired of seeing manager after manager spend big with little reward and poor value players coming in. He had every reason under the sun to re-structure things. He had every right to look for far better value. He also admitted his mistake with Di Canio. We may not have reaped immediate rewards this time but Short, his DoF and chief scout deserve another chance.

  3. Ian_SAfc November 16, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    I think Short has done a good job. He was brave (but right) to sack MON. PDC looked like a very good decision when we stayed up, especially after the 3-0 beating of Newcastle. Short was also right to sack PDC and thought carefully and seems to have made a right decision about Poyet. We can all judge with hindsight. But at the time he was making the decisions we all seemed to be agreeing they were good ones.

    He’s pumped money into the club persuing Fletcher and Johnson and brought a lot of new players in. So, he’s put his money where his mouth is.
    He’s running a business. He’s the owner and he dosen’t “owe” us anything. Its not S.A.F.C where C=Charity. Would you rather have an owner like Ashley?

    • malcolm November 16, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Not everyone thought appointing PDC was a good move. He divided opinions even amongst those who agreed MON was a spent force. If you go back through the archives there are plenty who disagreed with his appointment on footballing grounds as well as those who saw it as a moral issue.

  4. Birflatt Boy November 16, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    “Would you rather have an owner like Ashley?”

    Has someone suggested this? Answer the question Ian rather than coming up with inane questions to which there is a universal “no” coming back to you.

    Do you think that the two Italians should have been given their cards? Do you think they are doing a good job, and are they responsible for selling players as well as buying them?

    • Michael November 17, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      I tend to believe that PDCs recent protestations about not getting the players he wanted is a bit of a smokescreen
      to deflect his portion of the blame on to others. I think it would be interesting to hear Di Fanti’s side of the story, although I would prefer that the club does not get into a mud slinging match with our former manager.

      To be fair to our DOF Ba,Watmore,Molberg- Karlsson and Mavrias were bought as ” ones for the future” . Of the rest those who have played more than a handful of games have looked more that competent Premiership players.

      The jury is out on Cabral and Diakite because we have hardly seen them.

      As for not getting the British players
      PDC claimed he wanted? There are probably a range of reasons including cost, unwillingness to move to a team which has just avoided relegation, an unwillingness to move north, unwillingness to play for an unproven erratic manager …..who knows.

      • Plan B November 17, 2013 at 10:26 am #

        Couldn’t agree more Michael, passing the buck is exactly what Di Canio is doing; he was keen to tell us he was happy to be considered a head coach rather than a manager. He also said a few times the final decision on transfers was down to him, (as it should be) and was also happy to tell us why he turned down the bid for Ji.

        The 14 players thing is trotted out all the time, but the seven permanent first team signings may still turn out to be astute pieces of business, even Cabral and Diakite. It will certainly be interesting to see if Poyet brings them back into the matchday squad at some point.

  5. CSB November 16, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    Ian, with all due respect I can not see where you can arrive at the fact that ES has done a good job after the turmoil of the last three seasons. He has made very nearly catastrophic decisions, off set only by the Club still being in the PL, the financial fallout of not being in the PL is too much to consider.

    He has done a good job in keeping us there despite his suicidal tendency to put this on the line by managerial Russian roulette. But the fact of the matter is that all of the turmoil and problems are self inflicted.

    He presided over the Bruce regime, a compromise candidate as we could not get MON at the time. When the fans decided they had had enough of Mrs Doubtfire he acted to replace him. Fair enough there were not many supporting the longevity of SB’s reign (Davey excepted) the only unfortunate by-product of this was that Quinn fell on his sword. But ES had allowed SB to not only sell some of the family silver during his last summer but to then re-invest this money on several bog standard run of the mill players. ES guilty of incredible short (no pun intended) sightedness.

    Bruce replaced by fans favourite and former number one target MON. On the face of it everybody was excited but MON had been out in the wilderness too long and never really looked to be up to the not insubstantial task of keeping us up and taking us forward. MON sacked fair enough. ES maybe guilty of pandering to the fans.

    PDC, where do you start. I went on record as expressing my opposition to his appointment, on football grounds only. ES obviously decided that he would make the decision alone. He kept us up, so plus points to Ellis there. But the guy was a complete nut. The political fall out was so poorly handled it beggared belief and the manner in which it appeared to take the Club by surprise was breath-taking. Minus points there Ellis.

    Sacking PDC, had to be done and ES made the right call, even if he was just cleaning up his mess in the first place.

    I am grateful to him for his cash inputs and continuing support but he has made some appalling errors. Lets just hope he has learnt from these and we can move on. I would love to ES go down as one of the great chairmen of the Club and I think he is moving in that direction. But he is just the current steward, the Club in reality belongs to the fans and it will be us that are still here well after ES has gone.

    • Bill November 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Ellis Short’s first major mistake was getting rid of Roy Keane.

  6. malcolm November 16, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    I have a theory about PDC’s appointment.

    For me one of the disappointments of Short’s ownership was the marginalisation of Niall Quinn and his subsequent decision to leave the club. Whilst not all of Quinny’s recommendations worked out (most of them did) he is a man who knows football inside out and has the welfare of SAFC at heart. Once he was gone Short took complete control and decided that MON was a spent force several weeks before the Man Utd game.

    At the same time Short mandated Margaret Byrne and other non footballing types to tap up the man he said he wanted. MON knew this which explains his depressive and apathetic attitude towards the end.

    Short had heard of an enthusiastic and successful young Italian manager. That man was Roberto Di Matteo. But – and here’s my theory – the instructions weren’t clear enough and someone, somewhere confused Di Matteo with Di Canio until it was too late and he’d been unveiled as the manager of Sunderland Football Club.

    Of course if I’m right none of this will ever come out. Must go there’s an alien ringing my doorbell.

    • Drummer November 16, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Knowing us that could be spot on , didnt we sign the wrong Milton Nunez by scouting him via video? Begs the question what happened to the real Milton Nunez, did he exist or has the signing of ” Tyson” just become shrouded in urban myth?

  7. malcolm November 16, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    To address BB’s point about the two Italians who, we are led to believe, are in charge of hiring and firing it goes along with my belief that Short (and some other foreign owners) are applying their business models ahead of the footballing objectives. I can’t see how it makes sense to appoint a man whose previous role was not identifying talent, but extracting the most amount of money he could get for players of any ability.

    That said, if what we read about the club is correct, Di Canio vetoed an offer for Ji Dong Wan and pressed for the sale of Sessegnon which doesn’t lead me to believe that he would have brought in players of better quality than the ones that came in.

    I don’t see why the concept of separating the hiring and firing of players from coaching shouldn’t work. I’m just not sure Short has the right people in charge of the hiring and firing.

    • Michael November 18, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      This my understanding of how the relationship between the coach and the DOF .

      1.Coach sits down with DOF and chief scout and identifies a player or type of player he wants? He might even provide a list of names

      2. Chief scout and his team watch and assess the players whilst the DOF speaks to agents and clubs to check avaiability and price.

      3. List of those suitable for and available to SAFC is then given to coach who identifies the player or players he wants to sign .

      4. DOF then liaises with board about. the financial and legal process of signing the player

      5. Chief scout should also be looking for younger players to sign for the club to develop. In the end though the decision about who to sign should rest with Head coach and head of development.

      Simple.

  8. Drummer November 16, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    We will see what Poyet thinks by how many of the summer signings he tries to get rid of. I have read on other sources that allegedly De Fanti is the son of a colleague of Ellis Short, surely that can’t be a factor in him getting the job.Ellis Short has demonstrated that he is ruthless in the hiring and firing at S.A.F.C and De Fanti must be on a yellow card as regards to maintaining he’s job.Ellis Short has tried to do good things for us but I sometimes wonder if he ever regrets becoming involved with our club as it seems a lot of outlay for very little reward from a buisness point of view. To sum it up we need an experienced football person in the board room, we seem a little directionless at the minute.

  9. Plan B November 16, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Wonder what Poyet thinks of Paolo Nutini and Martin O’nce upon a time going at it? taking more pressure off him really, he must think its hilarious, and slightly tragic.

    • Drummer November 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Just carrying on in the Bruce tradition. At least they’re insulting each other and the fans this time.

  10. Birflatt Boy November 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    O’Neill commented this week that “I wish I’d been allowed to sign 14 players.” For what it’s worth Martin you should be grateful that you didn’t have this particular 214 forced on you. O’Neill didn’t have the money to spend once he had signed Fletcher and Johnson. The purse strings were being tightened. Short didn’t accept that the squad needed to be totally overhauled and we ended up with ridiculous arrivals such as Saha and the Scot’s lad whose name evades me at the moment. They were cheap.

    Realising that O’Neill wasn’t cutting it Short decided too late that O’Neill was actually right about the squad but still didn’t spend the cash and went down the Di Fanti route. It was Di Fanti who recommended Di Canio to him.We signed 14 players, most of whom cost very little if anything at all with all the Bosmans etc.

    Yes we are without any football people on board and it’s a loss in practical as well as emotional terms without Quinn, but you can hardly blame Short for thinking that Quinny wasn’t exactly pulling up trees when it comes to the appointment of managers. Both Bruce and O’Neill turned out to have feet of clay. You’d have thought it impossible to make worse appointments than these two, but remarkably he did. Allied to a cack handed way of bringing in players and you have the current mess, which thankfully there are some signs that Gus Poyet may be able to work through and address. He needs everybody’s support for the months ahead,. He has started to do a good job. He;s the only one at this club you can possibly say that about.

    Ellis has tried and for I’ve supported his methods for the most part. The truth whether we like it or not and regardless of how appreciative we are of his investment, he has failed…………so far that is.

    • William C November 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      We can only hope that Ellis Short, reputedly a top businessman has learned from the fall out of his recent managerial decisions?
      His judgement has been suspect, and I do really feel that the absence of informed footballing know how has been the key element in our stuttering progress in recent years.
      With the exception of Keane’s first season, the club has not appeared to have a coherent direction, and has failed to achieve the season by season improvement which, IMO, is what we should be aiming for.
      This may not be a popular view, but I think ES made a big mistake in not appointing Sam Alladyce rather than Bruce. I think Big Sam would have relished the job of establishing one of his old teams as a regular top ten side.

      With regard to the questions you pose about our current recruitment policy [ if you can describe it thus? ] I hope that Mr Short deploys a laser-like scruitiny to the quality and progress of the squad of players that our two Italian master-minds have landed us with. There may be a gem or two waiting to blossom but, to date, I am sceptical that many of them are any better than those they replaced. I sincerely hope that Gus Poyet is allowed to have the major say in future signings. I think, given time, he will get it right.

      • Drummer November 17, 2013 at 9:45 am #

        I thought Alladyce would have being perfect for us. Would have led us to the promised land of mid table stability within a few seasons. Instead of this hiring and firing panic policy that has in reality being a well intentioned but monumental b@lls up!

  11. Joan November 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    It’s one thing for a manager to say “I want this player” and then others to go out and see if they can get him (contract negotiations & pricing must be highly complex, and I’m sure the manager doesn’t want to get bogged down in all of that). But it’s another thing for a manager to say “I need a left full-back” then to have no say over who’s brought in. It ignores Instinct and experience and a good manager will have that. Poyet needs to have control over buying and selling with De Fanti et al there to help him.

    I agree we’re crying out for someone with a lot of football experience on the board. Clubs have to be run along a business model if they’re to survive, but key decisions have to be taken for footballing reasons.

  12. Birflatt Boy November 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    That’s a good point Joan, but it begs the question as to whether we have progressed at all, in comparison to everyone else, that is, since the days of Mick M, when Mick was ending up with players that were consistently his 5th or 6th choice as a transfer target. He had nowt to spend and if what you say is correct then nowt’s changed. I don’t think it’s quite that bad but there’s no reason to suggest that PDC did in fact want any of them. In the case of Huddlestone particularly. it is very disappointing to think that we were usurped by Madame Doubtfire on that transfer.

    • Drummer November 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

      Doubtfire gets Danny Graham for nowt after we’d bought him for nearly 6 million, why? I know he wasn’t pulling up any trees but come on, Bruce of all people!,after he’d blackened the name of club and fans.I notice he didnt come banging down our door with 8 million for Wickham either,FGB !

  13. tim November 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Picking up on Joan’s point. There are a few issues here and there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know about.

    No club (apart from Real Madrid and Barca, possibly Man City anarl), get every player they want. The very top clubs can afford any player in the world that they want and they can get them. The rest don’t. Realistic targets, ie those within the right price range and age, ability etc should be achievable at least some of the time.

    In SAFC’s case we would not be able to sign Aguerro or Kompany for example but we should be able to sign Tom Huddlestone for example. Huddlestone may have been the top of the list for PDC as his “playmaker” and there would/should have been 4/6 other players on that same list if he didn’t get his man. That’s just how it works. If you don’t/can’t get a then go for b and so on.

    Given what O’Neill said about the wages offered initially to Fletcher (less than he was on at Wolves), then the signings of both Saha and then McFadden start to make sense in financial terms even if they weren’t very astute signings from a footballing point of view. It also goes a long way to explaining why we didn’t sign H’stone for 5M or whatever when we could get Cabral for nothing. It also explains why the likes of Turner and Richardson were sold, so that we could replace them with cheap as chips imports such as Diakite & Roberge, and Dossena. They came because they were cheap or free and would be on lower wages then their predecessors. The fact that they aren’t as good is secondary.

    The only issue that worries me about this is that PDC says now that “80% of the players should be English.” Did he specify this when he took the job of was he just a hostage to (mis)fortune when Di Fanti and Angeloni started to sign a bus load of nackers?

    • Michael November 17, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      Or possibly PDC is spouting a load of old horlicks to hide the real reason why we couldn’t sign who he allegedly wanted …. his erratic personality and hand grenade style of management.

      • Joan November 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        Yes, we don’t know which players were put off by the prospect of having to play for PDC.

        If only we could go back to the days when managers used to go to a lad’s house and have a cup of tea with his Mam & Dad. It reminded me that Brian Clough once turned up at a schoolfriend’s house, looking to sign her brother – must have been when he was at Hartlepool.

  14. Pete Sixsmith November 19, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Don Revie came to Bishop Auckland Grammar School to sign Peter Hampton in 1968. He parked his Ford Zephyr at the back of the school. A group of lower sixth students, who were between lessons and were not producing samizdat entertainments or running The Top Twenty Club, scrawled SAFC in the dust on the rear window.
    When Revie came out, there was a wry grin on his face. The Headmaster assumed that I was to blame. How fair is that?

  15. tim November 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    How times have changed Pete. You wouldn’t find any dust on the rear window of a manager’s car these days.

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