“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” - Albert Einstein
At one moment in your life you will have undoubtedly heard some utopian philosopher or spiritual sage at the point of divine enlightenment make the claim that change is the only constant in life. It’s an interesting thing, change. We humans are evolutionarily predisposed to resist it because of the unknown risk associated with its unexplored consequences. But despite our endemic need to resist change, it is more important than ever, especially for Sunderland fans as we venture into new territory under the bombastic tutelage of Chris Coleman.
Ask anyone over 40 and they will testify that in this era of touch screens, artificial intelligence and electric cars that the pace of change in our society is immensely fast, and like me they will gasp in exasperation at the potential changes that are still to come.
Coleman has entered a situation at Sunderland that in many ways is moving faster than the pace of modern society. It seems Sunderland is almost a parallel universe with its own gravitational pull and negative weather system that appears only to fire dangerous lightning bolts at its weary inhabitants. Coleman himself has described the scenario he has walked into with similar imagery.
It’s like we are in the middle of a tornado.
But the thing I like about Coleman (and I’ll admit now, my wife thinks I have a major man-crush on our new boss) is that far from wilting under the pressure that seemed almost impossible to bear for Simon Grayson and David Moyes, he is unflustered at the challenges that have flattened his predecessors.
Moyes looked like a broken man from day one. Grayson I’m certain had the integrity and the courage to take the job when others around him faltered at the prospect, but it soon became apparent that the tornado Coleman described ultimately overwhelmed Grayson’s appetite for the job and his ability to do it effectively.
But Coleman is a different beast. A man cut from the same stone of unflappable self-belief as the last manager that seemed to embrace the carnage and moulded it into something resembling a competitive football team, when all around presumed we were doomed - Mr. Sam Allardyce.
Coleman finds himself in similar waters, swimming with the scar filled sharks at the bottom end of a league table - but he oozes confidence. At the same age, big Sam with a comparable swagger walked into a struggling Bolton Wanderers at the bottom of the championship with little to arm himself other than his inner belief that he could turn it around. Coleman gives off that same sense of self-assurance. As we know, Bolton under Sam returned to the Premier League and this laid the foundations of Sam’s successful career that ultimately led to the England job many years later.
Coleman sees the challenges that are before him and is not deterred by the sheer amount of obstacles that could yet show themselves as his time with us continues. He’s like a footballing Indiana Jones at the end of a corridor, who can see Holy Grail only 50 feet away. But one false step and the place becomes a murderous death trap, as booby trap after booby trap explode into deathly action. Like the legendary Indy, Coleman sees the danger and still moves forward because the prize of success outweighs the dangers of failure.
You have to admire the devil may care nature of such a personality.
Coleman knows he has a battle ahead and not just a war of tactics and motivation, but a larger conflict that emanates from an unstable boardroom and a nervous owner with one foot quivering in and one shaky foot out.
But rather than let that define his tenure at the club, and instead of speaking of limitations and dampening expectations, Coleman talks brightly of the future. He expresses himself with boldness and confidence and does not hide behind vague sound-bites at very boring press conferences.
When asked about the uncertainty of the boardroom, he attacks the matter head on. On Ellis Short he has said:
There are a lot of insecurities (with Short). Will Ellis be the owner? Will there be a new owner?
Those are battles we have to fight, and things we have to keep a grip on. All I can do is concentrate on what matters, and that is results.
Coleman speaks of fights and battles. Moyes used to speak of raising the white flag and Grayson for all his positives looked like a deer in the headlights. But there is an authenticity about Coleman and a credibility that spreads his determined attitude throughout the terraces and from what we have witnessed of late - throughout the squad. Did we fight and battle against the best team in the league even though they outgunned us in class and ability? Damn right we did. Even when luck went against us and one player’s utter foolishness could have cost us, we fought to the very last kick.
For fans, Coleman is like a beam of hopeful light that is shining at the end of a very dark tunnel. We watched on as the very enthusiasm that exists at the core of our natures was sucked from our souls from a rotation of energy sapping football vampires.
Yes, we’ve been terrible, yes, we may face back-to-back relegations, yes we have an owner who wants out and yes we have a transfer kitty smaller than my monthly spend on meatball sandwiches at Subway. But Coleman remains courageous, enthusiastic and even optimistic that he can lead the club to success. And this is where he speaks impressively.
Despite us wheeling and dealing in mediocre managers like kids do with their Panini football stickers, he speaks of the future, dare I say - he even speaks of building. He has a hell of a task. Balancing the books and trying to flog some our dead wood, while trying to produce actual results on the pitch, all while he maintains a fine balance in his relationship with an owner who lost his desire long ago. So many challenges but he relishes them and assures us he will not be afraid of such obstacles. Coleman said:
You know what can happen here (when success comes) but unfortunately we are at the other end now. It’s how do we start building to get back there. It is literally dismantling and rebuilding – I can’t be any more clear than that. We need to do that, but at the same time we have a fight on our hands to get away from where we are now.
Someone willing to rebuild from top to bottom is not here for the short term. He has ideas, he is an innovator and he wants the club to succeed.
Should we battle and fight in our support of him and the team? Society may change fast but our support of this great club does not. We are in the trenches with Coleman and he needs us as much as we need him. Let the battles commence.