So we’re in the infancy of Chris Coleman’s reign as Sunderland manager. In the short time he’s been at the club we’ve seen grounds for optimism – the more disciplined spells at Villa Park together with the joyous victory at the Pirelli and the clean sheet that went with it. But the Reading game provided a reminder (if we needed it) of the fragility of the team and the mammoth task that the manager faces.
Chris Coleman is rightly remembered for his successes with Wales, especially at Euro 2016, which are well documented. But what of his earlier managerial career in club football, and what, if anything does it tell us about his chances of success at the Stadium of Light? A place which, barring the odd exception, has become a bit of a managerial graveyard.
Focussing on the stats from his time in charge of Fulham and Coventry City (he did also have relatively brief spells at Real Sociedad and Greek side AEL), his overall successes appear modest. In terms of league games, he won 33% and lost 41% of his games at Fulham (then in the Premiership), whilst winning only 28% but losing 39% of his games at Coventry (then a Championship side). Fulham on average earned 1.24 points per league game, with 1.17 points per game at Coventry. Looking at these points per game ratios, and rolling it out across the remaining 26 league games of our season would take us to between 44 and 46 points – a total unlikely to keep us in the league.
Obviously, comparing these bare facts against the remainder of our season is crude and in no way tells the whole story. For instance it doesn’t take into account a number of factors like the extent to which he was backed and how he performed in the transfer market at his previous clubs. However, he was at Fulham for the best part of 4 seasons and Coventry for nearly 2 ½, so these stats do at least provide some indication of his overall performance.
But the watershed in his managerial career so far has obviously been with Wales. In competitive fixtures, his team won nearly half of the games they played (47%), drawing 25% and losing 28%, which is a drastic improvement on his time at Fulham and Coventry.
And it’s these latter stats that we, as Sunderland supporters need to cling to if we feel there is any chance of survival this season.
It was his most recent, most successful and most high profile stint as a manager which provided supporters, including myself, with the grounds for optimism when he was appointed. And it’s not just the results he has achieved with Wales which have provided hope. It’s the fact that they were obviously brought about in large part by the hunger and skills that Coleman showed when taking an unfancied team at a low ebb and gradually transforming the players so that for a period of time they achieved much more than what was expected. An experience which will hopefully stand him in good stead at Sunderland.
With Wales he appeared to have a knack of creating a tremendous team spirit and a culture whereby the players were obviously 100% committed to him and the collective cause. It goes without saying that we are crying out for a leader who can convince his players to wholeheartedly buy into what he is trying to achieve.
Yes, you cannot ignore that the Welsh team had the luxury of possessing a genuine match winner in Gareth Bale (who scored over 40% of their competitive goals during Coleman’s reign), something that we don’t have, unless you count Lewis Grabban as a Championship equivalent. But as a package, it appears that if anyone is qualified to have a crack at managing Sunderland, it is Chris Coleman.