Sunderland Chairman Blasts Manager McCarthy
A schism appeared at Sunderland yesterday when Bob Murray launched a scathing attack on comments made by the manager Mick McCarthy last week before the defeat at West Ham. "Insulting" and "ludicrous" were two of the words used by the chairman and it is difficult to see how there can be a reconciliation between the two men after such a forceful, damning public address.
McCarthy said last week that Sunderland's transfer policy after being promoted, with its severe financial constraints, reflected limited optimism. "There was a view taken that of course we wanted to stay up and do well but, if we didn't, then the group of players here will stay here and be a force to be reckoned with in the Championship," he said. "We have lacked experience but if we had gone out and got experienced players on big salaries we might have had a real problem if we had gone down. If it turns out that we're not good enough and we go down, this team stays together unless any decide they don't want to."
The Wearsiders are 16 points from safety at the foot of the table with 14 games to play and are nine points adrift of second-bottom Portsmouth. Andy Gray and Jon Stead have scored one goal between them and the goalkeeper Kelvin Davis has made a number of costly mistakes. Relegation looks all but guaranteed.
But Murray's withering response to McCarthy yesterday was to tell the Sunderland Echo: "I was very angry to read the comments at the weekend, which are blatantly untrue and insulting. We did not go up into the Premiership just to make up the numbers or with a plan to come back down - that's a ludicrous suggestion.
"We did expect it to be a difficult and hard first season back, as Wigan and West Ham did, but we did not expect to be in the position we are today - and none of us are happy about that. The policy was to acquire players to secure our position in the Premiership and certainly not a subsequent season in the Championship.
"The board did not dictate the number of players to buy or which targets to pursue. All our player contracts, like the majority of clubs now, are much more performance-related and also reflect our status - wherever we finish in the league - but that's just sound business.
"The facts are, we finished last season 21 points ahead of West Ham and seven points ahead of Wigan. In the summer we invested as least as much as both Wigan and West Ham and expected to be in there scrapping to the end of the season with the goal of retaining our Premiership status, so we could consolidate further in our second season.
"Wigan and West Ham have been able to invest again in the January window, as we would have done had we been in the same position with the comfort of knowing we too had all but secured our Premiership status. Unfortunately the performances and results dictated otherwise.
"At our game against West Brom I was talking to their chairman and he confirmed that despite them being in their second successive season in the Premiership our wage bill is higher than theirs, so it's not a case of us lacking ambition, not being prepared to pay Premiership wages or not wanting to remain in the top flight."
Murray also told the Echo that if Bolton Wanderers finish outside the top six their players will receive exactly the same amount of money as Sunderland's will do if, improbably, they stay up.
"It was certainly not our intention to come into the Premier League to make up the numbers," he added. "Far from it. And from a financial perspective, being in the top flight is worth far more than parachute payments in the Championship. We all feel very let down by the season and are having to manage the most difficult scenario we all could imagine."
McCarthy reiterated after the 3-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough last Tuesday that he would not resign, and there was a consensus that Sunderland will not review their managerial position until the end of the season, but Murray's remarks yesterday reveal a deterioration in the chairman-manager relationship which could see the former Ireland manager leave sooner rather than later.