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Molly Burke: Chris Coleman’s Survival Guide - How to succeed at Sunderland AFC

Molly Burke gives her suggestions to Sunderland manager Chris Coleman on what he needs to do if he is to succeed as the manager of this club.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Despite Chris Coleman’s time in club football management prior to Sunderland not being particularly successful or eventful, It would be fair to say that he learned a great deal and developed both as a coach and a mentor during his long stint as Wales boss.

Within a week of arriving at Sunderland, Coleman has already guided us to our first win in 17 games, as well as our first clean sheet in 204 days – a feat that previously seemed near impossible up until recently.

Our performance against Burton Albion may not have been top quality and the Brewers may potentially be the worst team in the league, but that probably wouldn’t have stopped us from falling to defeat with Simon Grayson in charge.

Coleman knows that the job he has on at Sunderland isn’t going to be an easy one - so, in order to prepare him for what is to come, here are some suggestions from myself that I feel the new gaffer should heed if he’s to succeed on Wearside where so many others have failed.

Bring passion back to the dressing room

Many of Sunderland’s players have appeared devoid of an emotional connection to the club for some time now, a stench that has followed us around throughout last season’s pathetic relegation from the Premier League before continuing on as we have languished towards the foot of the Championship.

Some of them are here solely for the fat pay cheque and not for the shirt and the pride that comes with representing a football club as great as ours, resulting in a long stretch of inept performances and league finishes over recent years.

Players like Lamine Kone and Fabio Borini were just hard to watch because they weren’t prepared to help us out when things were bad - we need players who show passion and want to be here.

If Coleman was to inspire the dressing room and show them his vision for our club, then perhaps they will fight for us like we have always wanted.

If he builds up their confidence and gets them on our side, then at least we will be able to watch eleven players trying their best week in week out – whether we are successful or not.

(Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images)

Believe in us and we will believe in him

When David Moyes joined the club he told us we were in a relegation battle before he had even had time to get his feet under the table. Right from the start he didn’t believe in the players or the club. He knew things were spiraling out of control and was already preparing for the worst.

Moyes gave us nothing to lift our spirits that had already been brought crashing down by Sam Allardyce’s departure. The negativity left by Moyes had turned the club sour and it was impossible to back him.

Coleman needs to believe in our players and believe that we can improve and move up the table, and we will subsequently believe in him.

The former Wales boss seems to have this under control, however - he appears to be extremely excited by the prospect of managing this club and has made it very clear that this is where he wants to be.

Before we had even played a match under Coleman he had already improved the atmosphere around the city and if he keeps that up he will have the full support of the majority of supporters.

The right team selection

A big issue with both David Moyes and Simon Grayson was their constant errors when making team selections. Moyes was stubborn and would refuse to drop under performing players like Adnan Januzaj and Fabio Borini, whilst Grayson seemed to refuse to drop under-performing players such as Jason Steele and Lee Cattermole.

Coleman needs to get this right. Of course, since we have recently been plagued by injuries he may be forced to utilise some players that wouldn’t usually get in the starting eleven, but he can’t be scared to drop those usually in the team that aren’t playing well.

Lee Cattermole is one man who has been horrific in recent months, and although he is a brilliant character and it is hard to dislike him, Coleman needs to understand that the quality of football he has been playing means his place should be on the bench unless he starts producing Premier League level, match-winning performances sooner rather than later. We know he’s capable, but he’s just not showing it and hasn’t done for such a long time now that you wonder what is going wrong.

Lynden Gooch is a player that Grayson never really gave a chance to but I expect he would thrive in the Championship if he was given a decent run in the side.

And as well has punishing those who haven’t done very well, Coleman should be rewarding those who do. Joel Asoro came on for 10 minutes at the Pirelli Stadium this past Saturday and pulled off a very impressive assist for our second goal.

While Asoro hasn’t got too many minutes under his belt for the senior team, it is no secret that he has bags of potential and perhaps Coleman could give him a chance – especially with Duncan Watmore being out for the rest of the season.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Good substitutions

Coleman absolutely smashed his substitutions against Burton – bringing on James Vaughan to score the first goal and then Asoro who assisted the second.

Moyes and Grayson were both very negative in their substitutions and we would often find ourselves bringing on another defensive player when we needed to score, or waiting until it was too late before making the correct change.

Saturday’s match made it clear how important subs can be if we use them reactively and if Coleman can continue to get them right then perhaps it can help us out a lot in the latter stages of a game.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images


It really doesn’t take a genius to look at our team and see what areas we need to improve in. Of course, Ellis Short won’t provide Coleman with a great amount of money, but finding a decent keeper and central defender is vital in January if we are to succeed.

Jason Steele and Robin Ruiter are two of the worst goalkeepers I have ever seen in a Sunderland shirt. They make more mistakes than they do anything decent and Coleman is going to need to go on the search for a replacement as soon as possible.

Rumours have already been floating around about a possible loan deal for Liverpool’s Danny Ward, and regardless of whether this is just speculation because of the Welsh link, I think it would be a great move.

Our defence has been an absolute shambles since the start of the season. John O’Shea’s age has proved to be a massive problem for us and while Tyias Browning may have just returned from injury, Coleman really needs to consider strengthening our back four up so we stop conceding left right and centre.

Russia v Wales - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Don’t crack if things go bad

We are Sunderland AFC and things are never plain-sailing for us. Hopefully Coleman gets us to a good place and we start to win some games, but there will be times where we struggle and may be on a bad run of form. Fans may get on the backs of the players, and during those moments the manager tends to feel the pressure.

Most of our ex-gaffers have been unable to handle this pressure. They eventually crack, panicking and making silly decisions that tend to cost us dearly.

Coleman needs to stay calm and keep everything under control when he’s under the strain. That is a lot easier said than done with this club – but things aren’t always going to be easy and he needs to be able to handle that in the correct way.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images


The atmosphere at the Stadium of Light has deteriorated since our relegation to the Championship and, unsurprisingly, our attendances have dropped massively.

I don’t expect the stadium to be full again for a very long time, but we need to get that atmosphere back that we were known for in the Premier League.

Coleman can lift all our spirits as much as he likes and the players can try as hard as they want, but they need our backing and cheering them on is what will give them that lift and determination to drive forward and win us the game. We need to be that 12th man in the stadium - and Coleman must learn very quickly just how to get his team firing in front of the home crowd if he is to stand a chance of turning this club around quickly and steering us away from the drop zone.

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