SUNDERLAND owner Ellis Short has started the process of appointing a new director of football at the Stadium of Light following his decision to sack Roberto De Fanti yesterday.
Short acted to bring an end to De Fanti‘s seven months in the job after seeing Sunderland spend the majority of the campaign rooted to the foot of the Premier League after a summer of huge change.
But the Wearside outfit’s American chairman is convinced the director of football model, adopted for the first time by the club, is still the way to go.
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There is no great urgency to bring in a replacement, but he will be considering the options available to him and is likely to liaise with head coach Gus Poyet.
One candidate to have already emerged for the role is former Leeds United technical director Gwyn Williams, who was at Elland Road during Poyet’s time alongside Dennis Wise.
Williams, a former teacher, also spent 27 years at Poyet’s former club Chelsea, where he ranked making a £14m profit on Tore Andre Flo, who ironically joined Sunderland, amongst his most successful deals.
But Short is determined to make the right adjustments and is prepared to take his time after accepting his first director of football appointment was a huge failure.
De Fanti’s 12 years as a player agent helped him to build up an extensive contact list which he used to make wholesale changes to the Sunderland playing staff during his time in the North-East.
His decision to introduce 14 new players to the Sunderland squad during the summer backfired hugely and, combined with Paolo Di Canio’s volatile and similarly disastrous tenure, relegation remains a strong possibility.
Poyet has worked hard to address the slump since taking over from Di Canio and is on the verge of making his second signing of the January transfer window. Marcos Alonso and Santiago Vergini, who is just awaiting paperwork to go through, are both recommendations of the manager rather than De Fanti.
Short was no longer willing to give De Fanti the last say on transfers, having had serious doubts about the deals concluded by the Italian since giving him the role last June.
One of De Fanti’s earliest, midfielder Cabral from Basel, has already been moved on again, while centre-back Valentin Roberge, who left Maritimo, does not look like being too far behind him.
Cabral and Roberge are just two of De Fanti’s failings on the transfer front, with huge question marks still hanging over the likes of Modibo Diakite, David Moberg Karlsson and Charis Mavrias. The £6m striker Jozy Altidore still has plenty to do to justify his price-tag.
The summer recruits were not all bad. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone has been the best buy, while the season long loan acquisitions of Fabio Borini from Liverpool and Ki Sung-Yueng from Swansea City have had positive impacts.
Short is likely to have learned from his mistakes and when he does appoint a successor he is unlikely to be targeting a long-standing football agent who he had become impressed with during previous meetings.
For the time being the Sunderland chairman will be relying on chief executive Margaret Byrne, who now has seven years experience in dealing with football transfer matters, to work alongside chief scout Valentino Angeloni and Poyet.
Angeloni, who was appointed on the same day as De Fanti last summer, fronts up the club’s scouting network, which was given an overhaul during last year’s restructuring. It remains to be seen whether there will be longer term changes in that area of the club.
Sunderland, who face Southampton at the Stadium of Light today, will continue to press ahead with making changes to the first team squad in the hope of avoiding relegation.
Poyet still wants to add a number of new players and is willing to listen to offers for some members of the squad he inherited from Di Canio.
And it emerged last night that the latest player to have left Sunderland, Ji Dong-Won, will be on the move again during the summer – just to rub Sunderland’s noses in it.
It is understood De Fanti knocked back a sizeable offer for Ji, which could have been worth as much as £5m, last summer from Borussia Dortmund.
Less than 24 hours after it emerged Ji had had returned to former club Augsburg in a £500,000 deal it was revealed the South Korean will be heading to Dortmund for nothing.
“Ji Dong-Won is a player who can play in a variety of positions in attack,” said Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc. “We are pleased to have signed this talented player for next season on a free transfer.”
Ji made just 24 appearances for Sunderland during his three years in the Premier League. His departure further reduces the options in attack, with Poyet still on the look-out for another forward before January 31.