What seems like a lifetime ago when Chris Coleman was appointed Sunderland manager I wrote about Coleman’s performance at some of his previous clubs.
At this time, I think that most of us were impressed that SAFC still had the pulling power to lure a man whose stock was high, rather than having to opt for a manager who was out of work or down on his luck.
While speculation of who will be his successor is rife, I pause for a minute to think about Coleman’s performance as Sunderland manager. Was it doomed from the start or did he just not get the most out of a squad that was capable of surviving?
It’s fair to say that aside from the job he did with Wales, success in his domestic managerial career has been modest. Win rates at Fulham and Coventry City were 33% and 28% respectively. At Sunderland he managed a win rate in the league of just 21%, but which was much better than Simon Grayson, who in the league unbelievably had a win rate of under 7%!
Some might say that Coleman’s win rate of 21% with a squad including several internationals is a poor return, others may argue that it’s some kind of achievement when managing a basket-case of a club with an entrenched losing mentality.
All in all, I think that given the situation when he took over, although it would have taken a huge effort to keep us up, there were opportunities to do so. Too many times did his team selection leave me scratching my head, while his tendency to persist with formations that clearly weren’t working was frustrating. Overall, he just couldn’t rid the players of that losing mentality or strengthen the paper thin confidence that was rocked at the slightest test.
The January transfer window was a complete disaster – out went Didier Ndong and Lewis Grabban, and in came Kazenga LuaLua, Jake Clarke-Salter, Ovie Ejaria, Ashley Fletcher and Lee Camp. Yet another example of Sunderland dealing in quantity and not quality. Obviously you cannot lay all of these transfers at Coleman’s door, but this was the situation we found ourselves in when the window slammed shut.
There were some glimmers of hope towards the end of the season, but glimmers were all they were, and those leads we took in a number of games only went on to show how feeble we continue to be when very average teams ask a few questions of us.
One thing which I will always respect Coleman for is the way he conducted himself whilst at SAFC. Always professional and positive, he was never tempted to trot out the old, ‘What can I do, I’m only the manager. This place was messed up long before I came…’ routine – which David Moyes was a master at, and which Simon Grayson was also becoming very adept at, as the pressure mounted on him.
Does Coleman regret taking the job? He must do. Going from a position where he could have had Premier League clubs after him, he’s taken us down, and not only that, we’ve finished bottom. A massive failure for all concerned. Was he the right man for the job? With hindsight, probably not, but then again, with the constraints he faced, would anybody have been the correct candidate?
Of course, you can’t change any if this, it’s in the past and good riddance to it. What’s important is the future, and the need for the new ‘powers that be’ to appoint the right man and back him to the hilt.