Sunderland manager Chris Coleman has been at the helm for just over two months, and it’s fair to say that time has been a learning curve for the Welshman.
With little at his disposal going into the second half of the season - mainly due to injuries and a lack of transfer funds - Coleman’s press conferences have been surprisingly positive affairs.
The ex-Wales boss has avoided slipping into the Moyesian trap of dourness, and instead continues to lift the fans with his fair, concise assessments of consistently difficult situations.
Despite several hidings away from home and having to contend with want-away players and a limited transfer budget, somehow Coleman continues to be the positive figurehead that Sunderland supporters need right now.
The man who Coleman replaced, Simon Grayson, was all in all pretty unlucky during his short stint on Wearside. I have a lot of sympathy for him and also a certain level of respect. After all, he left a pretty solid job at Preston to step into the unknown with a club that could only offer him very little in the way of resources.
In the early weeks of his tenure, Grayson really seemed, to us fans at least, to understand what the club was about, and spoke regularly about Sunderland’s working-class heritage:
This is a working-class city that appreciates hard work. There is nothing worse than a working-class bloke going to watch bad football, because it spoils his weekend.
There was initially hope that the ex-Leeds United gaffer would take comments like that and be able to impart his ‘idea’ of what Sunderland was about upon his players, but ultimately he failed to lift the gloom left behind by a season of despair and strife under David Moyes.
Shortly after his appointment Coleman showed his excitement at taking over as Sunderland manager, but he also addressed the elephant in the room by stating the club was “on the edge of a cliff” with regards to our status as a Championship club.
It was clear to see how coy Coleman could be in both acknowledging serious issues whilst simultaneously generating support and enthusiasm - it was genuinely impressive.
Despite Saturday’s win we’re still in the bottom three. Coleman was honest, however, and made sure that people knew he wanted to be at the club, and reiterated his desire to bring back the good times:
I do think there is something special that is waiting to come back to the football club.
And he’s right, of course. We have the facilities, the fan base and the stadium of a big club; we just need someone with money to view us as an organisation worth investing in.
Time and time again, Coleman has told fans what they’ve needed to hear, but not always what they wanted. We all knew that we wouldn’t have a lot of money to spend this month, but we wanted clarification - something we got from Chris at the start of December:
I wasn’t promised a kitty to buy A, B and C. Martin was brutally honest that there may be no money to reinvest but that doesn’t mean I can’t strengthen with loan deals.
The last thing we need at this point is a boss who denies there is a financial issue. He made it clear that he was told by Martin Bain before he signed on that there would be little to no resources for signings. This hasn’t been a case of the manager being led on with the promises of a war chest.
On the bright side, Chris looks to be coming good on his aims of bringing in players with one loan (Clarke-Salter) and one freebie (LuaLua) already through the door, with a few others seemingly on his radar.
Of our past three managers, Chris Coleman has been by far the best when it comes to voicing his feelings to the fans via the media, taking over the role during one of the bleakest periods in the club’s history, under no illusions of just how big a job he has on his hands.
Somehow, he keeps up hopeful of a reversal in fortunes - under him it seems genuinely possible.