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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.

Martyn Cooke

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Chris Coleman
Photo: Reuters

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.

Championship

Four goals in last three games: Could Luke Molyneux be Sunderland’s unlikely hero?

The 20-year-old has been in fine form for the Sunderland under-23s.

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Sunderland are still fighting to stay in the Championship. An improvement in performances has seen them lose just once in their last five games. Unfortunately, they have drawn their last three games, all three fixtures in which they could have taken all three points.

Therefore, Sunderland are still bottom of the league table and six points off of safety with just three games left to play.

So should the Black Cats consider throwing in one of their in-form under-23 players?

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The player in question is attacking midfielder Luke Molyneux. The 20-year-old, who can also play on the wing, has been in sublime form recently. That form continued this weekend.

The young attacker scored twice in the 4-1 win against Leicester City this afternoon. That followed another brace against Everton in a 2-1 win – taking his tally to four goals in his last three appearances.

His excellent form has helped pull Sunderland out of the relegation zone in the Premier League 2 Division One. Could he do it for the first-team?

Sunderland have certainly improved their performances, but bringing in someone who is in such great form could be a masterstroke from Chris Coleman.

Molyneux could be an impact sub for the Black Cats in the final three games of the season and could bring his current goalscoring knack into the first-team.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Regardless of whether Sunderland decide to give him a shot in the first-team or not, his form is certainly looking good enough to warrant a new contract.

He is one of many at Sunderland whose contracts expire in the summer, but given his fine recent form surely he will be retained when the lists are announced next month?

If that is the case, perhaps this season will come along too soon for Molyneux. But if Sunderland do drop into League One, the attacker might have a better chance of playing regular first-team football at the Stadium of Light.

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Championship

Is Tom Beadling doing enough to earn a contract U-turn at Sunderland?

The Australian youngster has been in good form since joining Dunfermline Athletic.

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There has not been much to smile about at Sunderland this season. It has been another drab campaign at the Stadium of Light, with first Simon Grayson and now Chris Coleman failing to turn around the fortunes of an ailing side.

Sunderland are now looking doomed to relegation and League One beckons. With that in mind, it is time to start looking toward next season and what could be some positives for Sunderland.

Whilst relegation will be a big blow, they can also be hopeful that some of their young players will step up and take advantage of a chance at a lower level.

(during the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur U21 and Sunderland U21 at White Hart Lane on April 11, 2016 in London, England.

One player who will be hoping to do just that is Tom Beadling. The Australian youth international headed to Dunfermline Athletic of the Scottish Championship in January on loan until the end of the season.

Since his move to Scotland, he has shown some great form for The Pars. Working under former Sunderland midfielder Allan Johnston he has shown a new sign of his game north of the border.

The 22-year-old, who is best known as a central defender, has adapted to playing in what is often an attacking midfield role with the Scottish side.

When he made the move to Dunfermline, the Chronicle reported this was the end of his Sunderland career, with his contract expiring in the summer.

(13 May 1998: Allan Johnston of Sunderland gets away from Paul Devlin of Sheffield United during the Nationwide League Divison One play-off at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, England. Sunderland won the match 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

But given he has performed well and added an extra string to his bow, Sunderland must surely consider keeping him on for at least one more year.

Cost-cutting is expected at the Stadium of Light this summer, but the 22-year-old’s salary is unlikely to be a major burden on affairs on Wearside.

Sunderland could have a very useful player on their hands for League One if the were to keep Beadling on past the summer. But if not, he will undoubtedly have suitors after his good form in Scotland.

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Championship

If Sunderland drop into the third-tier it will only be for the second time

Sunderland have given themselves hope of survival with a 4-1 win against Derby County.

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Good Friday saw something of a miracle from Sunderland, as their unlikely fight to survive in the Championship finally kicked into gear. The Black Cats went into the game on a run of three straight defeats but stunned Derby County away from home with a 4-1 win.

Goals from George Honeyman, Ashley Fletcher, Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea gave Sunderland all three points, despite Matej Vydra’s attempt to spoil the party halfway through.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – JANUARY 10: A Sunderland flag flaps in the wind before the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Liverpool at Stadium of Light on January 10, 2015 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The result gives Sunderland, who have been in freefall, a hope of Championship survival. With seven games left they are five points behind Birmingham City and safety.

Dropping into the third-tier of English football would be a massive blow for Sunderland and would signify the mismanagement of the club in recent times under the stewardship of Ellis Short.

There is one little-known fact that highlights the club’s fall from grace more than any other. Should Sunderland fall out of the Championship and into League One it would represent just the second time the club have played outside the top two tiers of the English game.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: Joel Asoro of Sunderland reacts during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland at Loftus Road on March 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)

Sunderland have a rich history. They joined the Football League in the third year of its inception after Stoke were not re-elected.

It was then 68 years before Sunderland suffered relegation. The club was relegated to the third tier for the one and only time in 1987, bouncing straight back up at the first attempt.

Not many teams in English football have such a proud and successful record which makes the demise of Sunderland all the more disappointing to watch.

The 4-1 win at Derby however undoubtedly gives Sunderland hope that they will not repeat 1987 this year around. A club of this stature should not be in such dire straits. Hopefully, Chris Coleman can pull off the great escape.

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