To say that the last couple of years has been turbulent period for Sunderland supporters would be a significant understatement.
Sam Allardyce departed the club in the summer of 2015 to begin an ill-fated spell in charge of the England national team and the Black Cats replaced him with David Moyes, who proceeded to oversee a half-hearted campaign that ultimately concluded with relegation to The Championship.
The club quickly discovered that life in the second tier of English football was no easier and Simon Grayson was dismissed just three months after taking charge, leaving the team stranded in the relegation zone and facing the realistic possibility of slipping into League One.
However, there have been some tentative signs of recovery around the Stadium of Light in recent weeks and there is a cautious optimism among the supporters who are hoping that the appointment of Chris Coleman is the catalyst for a change in the club’s fortunes.
Here, The Boot Room highlights three reasons for Sunderland supporters to be optimistic about the New Year…
The arrival of Chris Coleman
Since the dismissal of Roy Keane in December 2008 there has been a continuous conveyor belt of managers that have attempted, with differing levels of success, to facilitate progress at Sunderland.
Chris Coleman became the Black Cat’s tenth manager in less than eight years when he was appointed as Simon Grayson’s successor in mid-November, but the Welshman’s arrival has created a sense of optimism around the Stadium of Light and the hope that the club can begin to build for the future.
The fact that Sunderland were able to tempt Coleman to take up the role is an impressive feat considering the 47-year-old’s reputation has never been more prominent after a successful spell in charge of the Welsh national team.
A manager of his calibre is exactly what the Black Cats require and his experience, no-nonsense style and ability to make teams hard will provide supporters with hope that the team can climb away from the relegation zone. Whilst in charge of the Welsh national team Coleman demonstrated that he could mould a group of, in reality, average players into an efficient unit capable of reaching the semi-finals of Eur0 2016.
Since his appointment there have already been signs of progress with Sunderland looking better organised, more competitive and look capable of picking up positive results. Coleman still has an awful lot of work to do but the general feeling on Wearside is that he is the right man for the job.
Goals have been in short supply at the Stadium of Light this season but Lewis Grabban’s efforts have made him one of the few bright sparks in what has ultimately been a dismal start to life in the second tier of English football.
The 29-year-old is something of a journeyman having played for ten clubs so far in his career but his arrival on loan from Bournemouth has probably been the sole reason that Sunderland are not cut adrift at the foot of the Championship.
The striker has scored 11 goals in 17 league appearances so far this season, which is a quite astonishing feat when you consider the absence of quality in the team, the lack of service he receives and the club’s consistently poor performances. To score on such a regular basis for a struggling team is some achievement.
Grabban is certainly not the perfect striker but goals are the most valuable commodity in football, especially if you are in a team that is stranded in the relegation zone. The fear for Sunderland supporters now is that Bournemouth might considering recalling the forward in January, yet if the Black Cats can keep hold of him he will play a crucial role in Chris Coleman’s bid for survival.
The January transfer window
The main positive for Sunderland supporters is that the January transfer window will provide Chris Coleman with the perfect opportunity to start constructing a team that is capable of securing safety.
The current squad lacks strength in depth, is weighed down by the inflated wages of failed so-called Premier League stars and is vastly unbalanced, but when the window reopens in the New Year the rebuilding process can begin.
It is unclear how much money Coleman will be given to spend in January and it is vital that he brings in four or five new players that will galvanise the team – that will mean signing an experienced goalkeeper, adding quality to the spine of the team and starting to trim the deadwood around the squad.
However, if the Welshman makes the right moves in the transfer market then he can begin to build a team competitive team that can climb away from the relegation zone whilst starting the process of laying the foundations for the future.
What Sunderland need now is to sign young, progressive talent rather than wasting money on seasoned ‘old pros’.
The team needs to be built around players that are hungry, determined and focused on carving a career for themselves in the upper-tiers of English football and that have something to prove, in contrast to the likes of Darren Gibson, Jack Rodwell and John O’Shea who have neither the financial pressures or motivations to drive the club forward.
The January transfer window is the perfect opportunity for Coleman to begin rebuilding the club.