ELLIS SHORT insists he remains ‘fully involved’ with the day-to-day running of Sunderland, and has mounted a passionate defence of his refusal to sell the club in the summer.

The Black Cats owner broke his long-standing media silence to conduct an interview with the club’s official website yesterday in which he admitted Sunderland were in a “crisis” and revealed he had invested new money this summer in order to deal with outstanding debts.

He confirmed the club is no longer officially on the market, but claimed he is willing to speak to potential buyers as long as they are “credible”. As things stand, however, he is no longer employing an advisor to try to push through a deal.

Clearly stung by criticism that he has lost interest in Sunderland, Short maintained he is as actively involved as ever, even though he rarely attends home matches and is spending much more of his time with his family in the United States.

“I know it’s been in the press that I don’t care anymore and I’m not involved, but that’s simply not true,” said Short, whose side take on Middlesbrough in a Tees-Wear derby at the Riverside tomorrow. “I’m as involved as I’ve ever been.

“It is true I’m not physically at as many games, which is really a function of me being more involved in my business life and my family spending more time in the US. But I’m watching, I’m paying attention and to answer the question that you sing at me during mainly the really bad games, ‘Yes, I’m watching’.

“Also, I’m involved financially. I put a significant amount of new capital into the club this summer. Now, that didn’t go to buy new players, that went to cover losses related to our mistakes of the past.”

As well as making that investment in the summer, Short also embarked on a series of discussions aimed at selling the club.

He entered into advanced negotiations with a German consortium, but broke off those talks prior to the start of the season and issued a statement revealing he had taken the club off the market.

That remains the position, although having pumped around £250m into Sunderland since taking over from the Drumaville consortium in 2008, he remains willing to sell if a viable buyer can be found.

“There was one group that we did have some advanced discussions with,” said Short. “I decided not to do that transaction, and I have heard some criticism that because of the depth of emotion that I should be out, that possibly I should have done that.

“But that comes from people who don’t know anything about the circumstances of that transaction, don’t know anything about the circumstances of the buyer. I’ve got the interests of the club at heart, and I’m not going to do anything that’s not good for the club.

“I do understand the fans want me out, but I am certain they would not have been happy with that transaction. That’s why it didn’t get done. Now, there’s no longer an advisor, the club’s not officially for sale.

“If there is a legitimate buyer, that I can have a direct phone conversation with and it’s a credible person, like probably every other owner of an English football team, I’ll have a conversation. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s happening on the pitch right now and where we are in the table, and what we have to do.

“So I may or may not sell that club at some point in the future, that’s completely beyond my control. Not completely, mostly beyond my control. But as long as I own it, I’m going to be focused on what’s good for the club and the immediate focus is getting ourselves out of the situation that we’re in now.”

That situation sees Sunderland sitting in 22nd position in the Championship table ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Teesside. They have only recorded one league win all season, and their desperate form resulted in the dismissal of Simon Grayson in the wake of Tuesday’s 3-3 draw with Bolton Wanderers.

Short was involved in daily discussions with chief executive Martin Bain in the days leading up to Grayson’s departure, and claims Sunderland’s defensive problems were the catalyst for the decision to pull the trigger.

“I don’t believe that squad of players belongs in the bottom three of the Championship,” he said. “What’s worse, it’s not as if we’ve been putting in great performances and just can’t get the ball to go into the back of the net.

“Our goalscoring performance is towards the top of the league, but we’ve given away more goals than all but one team, and this is largely with many of the defensive players that we had last season in the Premier League.

“That’s just not acceptable, and our view at the club was that we needed to make the change. Simon is a very good man. He tried his best, and we have a lot of respect for him. But we felt like as badly as things have gone, we needed to try something different.”

Sunderland’s immediate priority is to pull clear of the Championship drop zone, with Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay having been placed in temporary charge, but Short claims the club’s long-term ambition should be to challenge for a top-seven finish in the Premier League.

“The first order of business is to get ourselves out of this problem, improve our performances and move up the table,” said Short. “After that we need to continue to get stronger and get back into the Premier League as quickly as we can.

“This club, the size that it is, the fan base that it has, belongs in the Premier League, and that’s where we want to be. After that’s happened, then I’ll go back to what my original goal had been when we were in the Premier League and that is that we should be trying to finish seventh place every season.

“There are six clubs with revenue much higher than ours, as a function of better sponsorship, much higher ticket prices, higher attendances. But we should be fighting for that seventh spot.”