It is no secret that Sunderland have struggled badly since being relegated from the Premier League. The Black Cats sit rock bottom of the Championship, and with form and confidence poor at best, a second successive relegation is a real possibility. Manager Chris Coleman however, who took over late last year, should not be blamed for the clubs current position.
Chris Coleman Should Not be Blamed
Former Wales manager Chris Coleman took over the Sunderland reigns late last year after Simon Grayson was sacked with the team struggling and without a home win since the previous December. Coleman managed to rectify the home win situation but his time at the club has been anything but easy.
Not His Team
Simon Grayson brought in 10 new players last summer, spending just over £1 million in the process. Money from player sales went towards paying off club debts. Spending this little on so many players was always going to make this season a difficult one. However, fans hoped that a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish could provide a platform for the future.
It quickly became apparent that the team were not gelling and as results, performances and confidence got worse, the team slipped alarmingly down the table. With no sign of improvement, Grayson was sacked and in came Chris Coleman.
The hope was that Coleman could get the side he inherited playing with some fight, get to January and improve the squad with players he knew and could trust to do a job. Performances and results did seem to improve but sadly only in the very short term. Once the new manager effect wore off, players reverted back to performing as they did pre-Coleman. The manager has tried different formations with different players, however, results rarely improved much to the frustration of the manager and the fans. Many of whom had seen enough of years of poor displays.
No Money to Improve
With club owner Ellis Short making it no secret that he wished to sell the club, no money was made available to strengthen the squad, even if the clubs more saleable assets where sold. Loan deals and free transfers would be the criteria, with Coleman stating that he needed players who were willing to fight for the club in order to give themselves the best possible chance of staying in the Championship.
Chris Coleman set about trying not only to bring in new players but also offload those who did not have the fight to play in the Championship. Both proved difficult. It made for a frustrating month for the manager and their long-suffering fans.
Coleman set about his attempt to recruit new players, however, he was thwarted many times. Players got injured, managers wouldn’t allow players to leave on loan, clubs demanded money that Sunderland just did not have. Others stalled so much, it was obvious that their heart or head was not up for a fight at the bottom of the Championship.
Several players finally came in on loan and another on a free transfer. They may not have been the managers first choices, but he had managed to add numbers to his squad. As of yet the players who the club managed to sign have yet to show that they can help the club out of their current predicament.
Players Not Wanting to Play
Coleman also had the issue of players not wanting to play for the club or in England’s second tier. Players such as Jack Rodwell and Didier Ndong made it clear they wanted no part of the relegation fight. Ndong was eventually loaned out to Watford with a view to a permanent move. Rodwell, unwilling to play for the club again, refused several moves away and an offer to terminate his contract. Instead, he trains away from the first team but still collects £70,000 per week.
Players Not Performing
When the club were relegated, it was clear that certain experienced players who wanted to stay would need to show character along with ability in order to help the club. Players such as John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole, Lamine Koné have shown little this season to suggest that they should be in the team. Players with their experience and ability could and should be players that Sunderland could depend upon to perform and fight in this league. Others such as new signing Aiden McGeady, who although has shown flashes of what he can do, has been far too inconsistent to be given a regular place in the first team. Several others also fit into this category.
Relying on Youngsters
With players not performing, Chris Coleman has had to rely on youngsters. Players such as Josh Maja, Joel Asoro, Ethan Robson, George Honeyman and others have been used more than Coleman may have liked. These players have the quality and could prove to be first team regulars for many years. They currently lack experience and need the help of the more experienced players in the squad. Sadly this helping hand seems to have been lacking.
Squad Ill-equipped for Riggers of Championship
The Black Cats hoped at the start of the season for a respectable, if unspectacular, mid-table finish. However, it was apparent that the squad assembled for such a paltry amount was ill-equipped to challenge. Many inexperienced players were brought in as were those that, although they had played in this division, had hardly been successful. This is unfortunately what happens when there are lack of funds made available. You make do with what you can get. Sunderland just could not compete with many other clubs in the league.
Still Hope But a Miracle Required
There is still hope on Wearside that the club can escape the dreaded drop to League One. However, games are running out fast. Sunderland are gaining draws here and there but a win keeps eluding them. If this continues then there is sadly only one outcome. Many have consigned themselves to watching League One football next season. The club has perhaps done the same by declaring the Stadium of Light’s top tier will be closed next season. There is still hope but it’s fading fast.
Coleman Willing to Stay
Reports have suggested that Chris Coleman will be willing to stay even if the dreaded drop happens. The club needs stability and Coleman should be given the chance to rebuild the club. He is a determined individual and knows if he can get the side playing with some fight and passion then the crowds will come back. Sunderland has huge potential and, if someone gets it right, the Stadium of Light could recapture its former glory. Although, all this may depend on the current owner.
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