ELLIS Short wants Sunderland to establish themselves in the Premier League comfort zone and earn some respect from their peers.
In Martin O’Neill he thinks he has the manager to achieve it.
During Short’s time as owner the Black Cats have gone from relegation strugglers to top-half finishers. They only achieved top-10 status last term in the very last minute of the campaign, when Somen Tchoyi’s equaliser for West Brom against Newcastle allowed the Black Cats to leapfrog United.
In future the reclusive Texan would like to see them do it with something to spare.
“I would like it if we are not in a relegation battle ever again and I would also like to finish in the top 10,” he said in a rare interview.
“But, rather than just a top-10 finish, I would like it if we could finish comfortably within the top 10.
“I’d like more respect in the league, which comes through better performance and better league table position.
“I’d like it if, when the big teams came here to play, they were afraid of losing.
“And it would be nice if, when the big teams come, rather than the pundits talking about the big teams taking maximum points ‘from the likes of Sunderland’, they were talking about what a tough match it was going to be and how it is one they could very likely lose.”
The Wearsiders have beaten Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light this year, having struggled there in 2011. Since December’s appointment of Martin O’Neill, their fortunes have taken a rapid upward course.
“There has been a noticeable increase in the noise around the stadium and it certainly seems like the fans’ support is stronger than before Martin joined,” Short told the club’s official website. “He has been a tremendously positive influence on the club.
“The results speak for themselves and, probably with the exception of the West Brom game (a 4-0 defeat in February), we have played some very good football.”
Sunderland are eighth in the Premier League,although only two points ahead of 14th-placed West Bromwich Albion.
Last season was only the third time in 55 years they finished in the top 10 of the top flight.
Short (pictured above) thinks the key to improving performances is harnessing the club’s support.
When Niall Quinn sold his vision to him four years ago, it was on the promise if he could assemble a successful team, fans would follow, producing a snowball effect.
Average league gates have been steadfast at 40,000 during Short’s first three seasons, tailing off this term when they average 38,690. Improving that is, Short claims, a higher priority than converting supporter loyalty into cash.
“The better the support, the better chance we have on the pitch,” he reasoned.
“That’s one of the reasons we froze ticket prices. We are not really interested in the amount of money we can make from the supporters.
“What we are really interested in is getting the supporters there singing and cheering and getting them fully behind the team, because that’s what helps us do better on the pitch.”
In their attempts to grow the club, Sunderland were this week granted permission for an indoor training centre and outdoor synthetic floodlit pitch at the Academy of Light.
It has long been an ambition of the club since opening their training centre in 2003.
The Black Cats thought they had finally won the battle in late 2010, only for the new criteria for the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan to cause a change of plans.
Having passed a council planning committee, they are awaiting final permission from the Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, Billy Knott’s loan at League Two AFC Wimbledon has been extended by a further month.
The 19-year-old midfielder has scored twice in 11 appearances for the Dons.