ELLIS Short wants to make Sunderland a permanent fixture in the Premier League's top ten - and believes the biggest sponsorship deal in the club's history shows they mean business.
The Black Cats have announced a two-year deal with not-for-profit business initiative Invest in Africa, a partnership which will see them play with the organisation’s logo on their shirts from the start of next season.
The club see the sponsorship deal as a key part of their attempts to turn Sunderland into a global brand.
One partner in the Invest in Africa organisation claimed the increased exposure can help the Black Cats become the “biggest club in Africa.”
The new sponsorship deal is a sign of a club in rude health off-the-field, but on it Short admits to disappointment at finishing in 13th place last season.
Although determined to bring stability through gradual improvement, he admits the bottom-half finish is “not good enough” and knows the pressure is on to improve next term.
He said: “The first step is getting into the Premier League – we are there. The next step is staying in it and the next step after that is being considered an established Premier League team.
“There is a lot of pressure, not just to stay in the Premier League but to improve. We are not happy with finishing 13th – we are not happy at all - but we realise you need steady progress, you need continual progress.
“We do not want to finish seventh twice in a row and get relegated the next season, which has happened in the past.
“We do feel with Martin, and with the progress we have made, we are well-positioned.
“We want to be well within the top ten – we cannot promise that but we are not happy with where we are and we do want to continue to improve.
“Yes, there is a huge pressure to do so – both from the fans’ expectations and from the sheer size of the economics involved in the Premier League.”
To do that, Short acknowledges the club must improve their playing squad over the summer, but the Texan sees the changes as being incremental, with Sunderland set to add two or three new faces rather than contemplate the complete overhauls which seemed to be a trademark of the managerial reigns of Steve Bruce and Roy Keane.
He says players will not be signed “for the sake of it” and that the hard work starts now as the Wearsiders tep up their recruitment efforts.
Short added: “Martin and I speak frequently so this (sponsorship deal) was not a surprise to him,” he said.
“He and I have been talking all summer long about what we are going to do. I think the fans have a pretty good idea of what we need to do and I think everybody has a pretty good idea of what we need to do.
“So now Martin is looking at specific players we might want and there will be a lot of work in trying to get those players here, but we do not want to sign players for the sake of signing them – or because it feels inexpensive.
“We want to identify players who are good and who will definitely improve us and try to bring them in.”
Short was pleased to be announcing such a major partnership for Sunderland – and said the new commercial deal should send out a message the club is now an established Premier League force.
He said: “I hope it sends out a positive message. “Tulow Oil, the initial founding partner of Invest in Africa, is a blue-chip, successful, well-run company and they will bring in other companies like themselves to this initiative.
“The kind of international companies with global reach we will be associated with will reflect the fact we are now considered an established Premier League club who are improving.”