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Coleman unable to halt Sunderland’s decline as Black Cats face relegation

Chris Coleman
Photo: Reuters

Sunderland

Coleman unable to halt Sunderland’s decline as Black Cats face relegation

Despite optimism upon Chris Coleman’s arrival at the Stadium of Light, the Sunderland job has only proven a poisoned chalice, with the club seemingly destined for relegation.

When Chris Coleman led Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, who could have envisaged that less than two years later he would be embroiled in a desperate relegation battle at the foot of the Championship, with a club that appears determined to tear itself apart?

There were plenty of eyebrows raised when it was announced in November that the 47-year-old would be the next Sunderland manager.

The Black Cats were sinking towards the third tier of English football having suffered relegation from the Premier League the previous season and the future of the club was unclear with American owner Ellis Short actively looking to sell.

Quite why Coleman opted to take the Sunderland job is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps the 47-year-old bought into a vision that he would be able to turn the club’s fortunes around and help Sunderland to finally fulfil its obvious potential.

However, the fact that he was about to become the Black Cat’s ninth manager in six seasons should have been the warning sign that the problems and issues that have underpinned the club’s demise are deep-rooted and entrenched.

When Coleman first arrived ay the Stadium of Light he spoke enthusiastically about rebuilding the club.

However, that energy and enthusiasm has gradually been eroded week by week and it now looks an almost certainty that the Welshman will need to commence his resurrection of the club in League One next season.

Tuesday night’s one-goal defeat against Bolton Wanders has left Sunderland rooted to the foot of the Championship whilst Saturday’s entertaining 3-3 draw against Middlesbrough means that they are four points short of safety.

However, only four wins in 17 league games since Coleman took over in November suggests that the Black Cats will need to produce an unprecedented run of form in the closing weeks of the season to stand even the slimmest chance of survival.

In truth, relegation feels only a matter of time.

A club in chaos

Whilst Chris Coleman will need to shoulder a degree of responsibility for Sunderland’s current predicament, the 47-year-old has been dealt an awful hand of cards.

Financially, the club are in a mess and owner Ellis Short has now been desperately looking to sell the Black Cats for over eighteen months.

Since purchasing the club a decade ago, the American saddled Sunderland with debts reportedly in excess of £100 million and has overseen relegation to the Championship.

 

The supporters have not been shy to voice their discontent, frustration and anger at Short’s ownership, yet the club will be stranded in limbo until a credible buyer steps forward.

The off-pitch chaos and lack of investment has directly impacted proceedings on it.

The club reportedly has an annual wage bill of £35 million that has all but swallowed up the first year of parachute payments and the £30 million received from the sale of Jordan Pickford in the summer.

Simon Grayson was handed the task of making Sunderland competitive in The Championship but was handed no money to build a squad. He spent less that £2 million in the summer on 10 new players.

The suggestion that Coleman would be provided with significant funds in the January window, in contrast to his predecessor, was little more than blind optimism.

The Welshman, who inherited a squad lacking in quality and depth, was permitted to sign just four loan players last month despite the team desperately in need of immediate reinforcing.

Coleman may have succeeded Grayson in November, but he has been forced to work under exactly the same financial restrictions.

The 47-year-old has consequently had to rely on his ability as a coach and motivator in order to try and improve results, although with little success as he wrestles with a complex group of players – some lack motivation, some lack experience and some simply lack quality.

Quite where relegation will leave both Sunderland and Coleman is unclear.

Without a buyer the Black Cats appear destined to suffer from a lack of investment that will leave the club in a desperate downwards spiral. The future certainly looks bleak at the Stadium of Light.

For Coleman, the decision to take up the managerial role at Sunderland appears to have backfired badly.

It remains to be seen how long he will be willing to stick with the club, but he will be fully aware that with every defeat the high-profile reputation that he built whilst in charge of Wales in being slowly eroded.

It may be easier to leave the sinking ship rather than stand on the bridge as it disappears beneath the waves.

The success of the Welsh team at Euro 2016 already feels like a distant memory.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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