So Martin Bain held out and successfully got his ‘clear first choice’ for the manager’s position, and credit where it’s due for that.
For a club rooted to the bottom of the Championship, it is a welcome comfort to feel an air of positivity which has been brought about by the recruitment of such a high profile manager, whose stock and reputation is at a career high.
His unveiling and first press conference was a shot in the arm. His enthusiasm was infectious. The guy was positive but realistic, and he seemed to give the impression that he ‘got’ what the club and the central role it plays in the community is all about. Overall, he convinced me that he was ready for the fight, and what a fight it’s going to be if he is to succeed.
In recent times, the manager’s position at SAFC has been described as many things – mostly negative. Following the sacking of Simon Grayson, The Guardian questioned whether the club was ‘simply unmanageable’. Managers with big reputations have come in and failed to turn it around. Gus Poyet was quoted as saying, ‘There is something inside Sunderland, at its very core, that needs changing’.
However, despite all of this, Coleman has said that he was coming into the position with his ‘eyes wide open’, and presuming that he has not been seduced by the promise of a transfer warchest, the question that many pundits and indeed supporters are asking is: why does Chris Colemen take this job and not hold out for an offer from further up the food chain, such as the recently vacated post at the Hawthorns? And is he the man to grasp that unidentifiable nettle that has been well publicised as being rooted in the bowels of SAFC? He says that he ‘hopes to God’ he is, and I do too!
Presumably, he doesn’t agree with the ‘nay sayers’ who believe that the club is doomed, and yet another relegation is inevitable, and I totally agree with that. I struggle with the concept that there’s something rotten to the core with this club, as intimated by some of his predecessors.
Yes, there has been large scale mismanagement both on and off the pitch, there has been some poor (and very poor) managerial appointments, a plethora of ill-informed signings and a series of woeful PR exercises, but are these simply not a litany of poor or ill-judged decisions over a prolonged period of time? There is no hoodoo or curse, such as that which some believe was held over the home of Birmingham City for over a century.
Things can be turned around. Cast your mind back to the summer of 2006. Sunderland had been recently relegated from the Premier League amassing a meagre 15 points, managers had come and gone, and the club, having lost their first 5 games of the season were frankly in a mess. They had all too easily got into the habit of losing. There was no way out (sound familiar?).
That is until an individual with the strength of character of Roy Keane came in and picked the team and the club off the floor by the scruff of its neck. Yes, there are differences between 2006 and 2017: in 2006 the Drumaville consortium had recently taken over and were willing and able to fund a number of signings and Keane had the benefit of using the tail end of the summer transfer window to his advantage. Overall however, I think that the broad comparison is fair.
Obviously, I truly hope that the next few months lead to a series of successes for Coleman and the club. But more so, in achieving this, I also hope that a number of myths and misconceptions around SAFC can be busted, and that all the doom merchants can be proven wrong.
It goes without saying that turning this situation around is a massive piece of work and not to be underestimated. I now feel that we have a manager who has the self belief and strength of character (together with the connections in the loan market) to instil in the team some desperately needed positivity, discipline and pride. This in turn will hopefully lead to the club enjoying a closer connection with the fan base and the city in general.
It may be very, very early days and I may be naive, but for the first time in a long time, I feel positive!