Ex-Fulham defender Tony Gale has been previewing Saturday’s clash between his former club and Sunderland, with high praise for the Black Cats’ new managerial duo.
The sometime Sky pundit says he can see the appeal of taking on the challenge of restoring Sunderland’s faded glory and that the lift Coleman’s appointment has had on Wearside spirits does not surprise him.
The Black Cats boss and his number two, Kit Symons, have history with this weekend’s visitors to the Stadium of Light of course. Both men played for the Cottagers in the late 90s and early 00s and the pair have both had stints as manager at Craven Cottage.
Writing for Fulham’s official website, Gale - who turned out over 270 times for the Whites himself - reckons Coleman has a huge job on his hands though:
We’ve got some familar faces up next now that Chris Coleman and Kit Symons are at Sunderland. I know Chris well, and I really like both him and Kit.
I was slightly surprised to see them go there as I thought they may end up at a Premier League side, but Sunderland is a massive club so I can see the attraction.
Nevertheless, Chris has got a big undertaking in turning their fortunes around. He’s already got a couple of results under his belt and has got them back in touching distance, but they really need to kick on.
Tony Gale played against Sunderland on ten occasions during his playing days, a career which saw him make a big money move to West Ham in 1984 and go on to turn out 300 times for the Hammers
The centre-half’s last appearance on Wearside was a notable game in 1993 in front of 19,000 at Roker Park. The match was the first West Ham fixture following the sad death of Bobby Moore days earlier. Hammers fans laid wreaths on the pitch that day with commentary from the ‘66 World Cup playing over the Sunderland tannoys before an impeccable minutes’ silence.
The 58-year-old reckons Coleman will keep Sunderland up and build from there:
It doesn’t really surprise me that Chris has had an impact already, because he’s always been a good man manager. We saw at Fulham how good he was at motivating his players. His challenge now is to keep Sunderland going for the rest of the season to ensure they don’t suffer consecutive relegations. That would be a disaster for them, and my gut feeling is that they will stay up. Cookie and Kit are good men and I expect them to do a good job.
However, like so many who have previewed trips to the Stadium of Light in the past year, Gale reckons Slavisa Jokanovic’s men can capitalise on the mood which persists at a venue which will have seen no home win in a year without a Sunderland victory on Saturday:
Whatever you do, you don’t want to be the ones they [Sunderland] get the first win against. But it is a dangerous game because they have got players who can hurt you, so we’ve got to be on our guard. It’s not the Stadium of Light that it was, nowhere the intimidating place it used to be. It’s the perfect example of a game where if we start well their fans could get on the player’s backs.
Heard it all before. Surely Saturday will be the game which sees us get this monkey off our backs... won’t it?