I listened to the Roker Rapport podcast this week (an absolutely great show as always) and couldn’t help but feel that as the show developed an incredibly pertinent point was raised by all involved - something that has raised my spirits as we look to move forward in the tail-end of this campaign.
When discussing Chris Coleman’s history with the Welsh national side, whether he would receive any backing in this transfer window, and who was staking a claim for a starting berth, it was clear to see that a very particular notion kept resurfacing at the climax of each discussion - that Chris Coleman’s charisma and man-management skills are something that will be incredibly important for us going forward.
That’s not to say that Coleman’s confidence is the be all and end all of his managerial capabilities; however, it is a serious strength that we have both desperately craved as a team for so long, and need to utilise if we are to emerge from this rocky patch a stronger club.
In terms of luring new signings to Wearside, Coleman’s presence and track record at developing players whilst simultaneously creating a winning mentality is something that will appeal to many targets keen to either kick-start their career, or get themselves back on track.
Jake Clarke-Salter is a great example of a young man desperate to play football, and who better to nurture this young talent that Chris Coleman - the man who guided the Welsh national team to their first major tournament in fifty years, and lifted the side to within the top-ten of the FIFA world rankings with a squad many considered to be sorely lacking in quality.
Clarke-Salter was eager to note the role Coleman played in helping him decide to move to Sunderland for the rest of the season:
One of the main reasons I came was because of the manager, he is great with young players. I spoke to him on the phone a lot, he told me what he wants to do as a club. As soon as he called me I couldn’t wait to come, my mind was made up.
Many players will see the opportunity to work with Chris Coleman as a huge incentive - his reputation alone for developing young players, and those perhaps not considered top class, will bring a host of ambitious players eager to prove their worth. Just the kind of men we need in order to re-establish ourselves as a side capable of succeeding.
Coleman is no mug of course, and will not take players he doesn’t consider to be up for the fight. His decision to start Ethan Robson ahead of an allegedly fit Jack Rodwell was just one indication that Coleman means business, and only wants to work with players committed to the cause. There is no pandering, or pussy-footing - Coleman knows who’s up for the fight, and that’s who he will put his faith in.
Subsequently, this will help to forge a side that, despite lacking in quality, will give their all on the pitch, and battle incessantly in the search for victory. Already we have seen Lee Cattermole look a different player in his return to the side, whilst Robbin Ruiter has also markedly improved. In the coming weeks, expect to see a team brimming with enthusiasm and a drive to succeed - due in large part to the manager’s ability to inspire those on the pitch.
The decision to start Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Ethan Robson was an incredibly bold strategy, yet it paid off as these youngsters talked up in the press by the boss returned the favour with their assured performances in the victory against Hull.
Coleman wants to surround himself with players eager to succeed, with players desperate to win at all costs, willing to take risks and stake their claim as a winner.
It’s this combination of an ability to attract determined, hard-working players eager to prove their worth, coupled with the ability to sow the beginnings of a team desperate to fight to the death in the search of victory that really gets me excited for the future.
The mutual respect found between Coleman and his men has clearly begun to take shape, and is slowly evolving into success. Coleman has found a group of players that buy into his ideals, and want to succeed for the manager, themselves, and us - the fans.
Saturday’s victory against Hull was a clear turning point. This wasn’t luck or freak nature that delivered the three points - it was a group of players beginning to fight for the badge and work as a unit.
Moving forward it will be intriguing to see if Coleman can gently work this spark of hope into a roaring fire of realized ambition. Bringing in several players to enhance the squad and aid Coleman’s tactical outlook will be key, and after pondering the issue, I think that despite our lack of funds we can still bring good players into the club simply because Chris Coleman is a big enough draw to entice players that care about playing football.
Furthermore, Coleman needs to utilize this turned corner moment to his advantage; a win against Birmingham next week would be just the fuel needed to fan the flames of hope and optimism.
We’ve seen passion, desire and confidence from a side for the first time in what feels like forever. Another performance like that will secure us another three points, and I have complete faith in Chris Coleman to keep this fire burning.
His confidence, honesty and determination to succeed are attributes that mean just as much to us as his ability to field a winning side. We must now capitalize on this glimmer of hope he and his men provided last weekend as we look to escape from this cycle of despair.