Chris Coleman has landed in the north east and will be unveiled as the new manager of Sunderland this afternoon.
An eagle-eyed plane spotter snapped the former Wales boss looking dapper at Newcastle airport earlier.
Here’s his story so far...
Coleman was an accomplished defender in his playing days, starting off in the lower reaches of the Football League with first professional club and home town team Swansea - though he was briefly signed by the Manchester City academy before returning to Swansea due to homesickness. He did, however, play in the top two divisions for the vast majority of his career, spanning from 1986-2002, featuring for Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham after leaving the Swans.
His career was cut short early, however, breaking his leg in a car crash in January 2001. Despite over 18 months attempting to recover, Coleman tendered his retirement in October 2002 and joined the club’s coaching staff.
Coleman won the Welsh Cup with Swansea in 1989 and 1991, the First Division title with Palace in 1993/94 and both the First and Second Division from 1998-2001 as Captain of the side under Frenchman Jean Tigana. Individually, Coleman was selected in seven different Team of the Year awards from 1988-2001, spanning all four divisions, as well as being crowned Crystal Palace’s player of the year in 1994.
Despite an impressive playing career - one that saw him unveiled as a marquee signing at Premier League Champions Blackburn in the summer of 1995 - it is as a manager that he has truly excelled.
Succeeding the aforementioned Tigana as caretaker manager in April 2003, Coleman steered Fulham towards safety and was named permanent manager at the end of the season. This meant he became the youngest ever manager in the Premier League at the time, and is still second on the list, with only former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas overtaking him.
In his first full season in charge, Fulham finished a surprise seventh in the top flight. Many expected them to be relegated, but the Cottagers over-achieved and Coleman was able to assemble numerous star-studded teams including the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Louis Saha, Steed Malbranque and Luís Boa Morte, Brian McBride, Zat Knight, Papa Bouba Diop, Aleksei Smertin, Collins John and John Collins.
Coleman led the side to mid-table stability before being sacked in April 2007 after a seven-game winless run. He was replaced by Lawrie Sanchez, initially caretaker at first - who only picked up four points from five games in charge, and the Cottagers managed to scrape survival.
His next was a somewhat surprising, and refreshing move, signing with Real Socidedad in June 2007. Then President at San Sebastián, Maria de la Peña hired Coleman on the direct advice of former Sociedad manger, John Toshack. The Welshman was still a board member at the club and former Wales manager, and was highly impressed with Coleman. He took over after the club’s disastrous relegation into the Segunda División, the first in over 40 years.
His spell has often erroneously been regarded as a Moyesian disaster, but in fact it is far from the case.
Although starting slowly with just four wins from ten, Coleman had steered the ship and made Sociedad an intimidating unit, but resigned in January 2008, along with assistant Steve Kean. This was not due to problems on the pitch - the side had lost just once in his last eleven games, winning eight of which, including a 1-0 victory over local rivals Alavés. But the aforementioned De La Peña herself resigned in November 2007, only to be replaced by Iñaki Badiola, whom Coleman disagreed with over the future vision of the club. Upon announcement, Coleman claimed;
It is with much sadness that we leave a great club.
Things have changed with the arrival of Badiola as there were two distinct ways of looking at the club and it's operations.
Sociedad were fourth when Coleman resigned, just a point behind Sporting Gijón in the last automatic promotion place, the very same position they finished in at the end of the season.
Following his Spanish excursion, Coleman returned to English club management and took over from Iain Dowie as Coventry City manager in February 2008. His tenure at the club, however, was a failure. Im his second season, Coventry ended up 19th in the Championship, their lowest league finish in over 45 years, and Coleman was sacked in May 2010. It could be said that Coventry were on an awful downward trajectory at the time and did eventually get relegated into League One, but it is still a warning.
In the summer of 2011 Coleman once again moved abroad, signing for relegated Greek side Larissa with the express aim of getting them back into the Greek Super League. He once again resigned in January 2012, midway through his first season with the club in fourth position and looking strong contenders for promotion. He discussed his resignation in full with the BBC later in the week, citing financial problems at the club;
The president has had to cut the budget by almost half so a lot of our players and staff haven't been paid for months and months and months.
It's not a situation I want to be involved in if I'm honest with you.
But I'm leaving I think with a bit of dignity. I had a fantastic ovation from the supporters yesterday in our home game, which we won 1-0. They understand my reasons.
However, at the time he was one of the favourites to replace Gary Speed as Wales boss, and although explicitly claimed his resignation was not due to the Wales job, did then go on to discuss it;
My decision to break my contract here has nothing to do with Wales at the moment.
Of course I'll be linked with [the Wales job]. Even if I was to stay with Larissa I would have been linked with it anyway.
Coleman was duly announced as the new Wales boss a week later.
Coleman’s tenure as Wales manager started off disastrously, becoming the first boss of the national team to lose each of his first five games, including an embarrassing 6-1 defeat to Serbia in Novi Sad, and Coleman quickly considered resigning. Wales finished fifth in their 2014 World Cup qualifying group, with just three wins and ten points from ten games.
However, just under two years later, in October 2015, he became the first man to lead the nation to an international tournament since John Charles in 1958. He is actually the only man to ever lead a Wales side through qualification, as Charles’ team were granted a by into the competition. They finished second to Czechoslovakia, but after all Asian and African sides refused to face Israel in the qualifiers due to the Suez Crisis, FIFA were reluctant to allow any side to qualify without playing. Thus, Wales, the highest ranked losers, were granted a second chance and subsequently defeated the Israelis 2-0 on aggregate.
Wales finished ahead of England in the EURO 2016 Group Stages, and defeated one of the tournament favourites Belgium 3-1 in the quarter finals. They eventually lost out to tournament winners Portugal in the Semi-Finals, but it is widely and rightfully regarded as the greatest moment in the history of the Welsh national team, and Coleman likewise considered their greatest manager by many.
Although Wales did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, eventually finishing an agonising third, his work in galvanising a squad wrecked by the suicide of then manager and legend Gary Speed, and transforming them into European Championship semi-finalists should never be underestimated. As such of the magnitude of the job, Coleman was granted the following impressive list of individual honours:
- Honorary Degrees from the University of Swansea, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Bangor University and Cardiff University.
- Freedom of the cities of Cardiff and Swansea.
- BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year and Coach of the year.
- FourFourTwo 50th best manager in the world in 2016.
- Voted 45th best manager in the World and best British coach in the World by L'equipe.
- FIFA World Coach of the Year Shortlist of 10.
Coleman departs the Welsh national job widely hailed as the country’s ‘best ever’ national team coach and despite being eclipsed by his achievements with Wales, evidently his club career is actually more successful than many realise. The 47-year-old’s only real failure was at Coventry City.
Coleman is a huge character with a strong reputation on the up, and is a perfect fit for a long-term vision to at last be implemented at Sunderland, and most importantly of all, be followed by those in the club’s hierarchy.