Since his arrival, there’s been a new instance every week where you’ve thought “If Chris Coleman didn’t know how much of a big job this was, he does now.”
Three days into the new year and we’ve lost to a side close to us in the league, then plunged back to the foot of the table the following day. If you didn’t know already, Chris, you’ve got a hell of a tough gig.
This month though, the expression alters slightly. Walking out of the Stadium of Light on New Years Day I thought to myself “this transfer window is huge for Coleman” rather than bemoan how much he has his work cut out.
What made me think that wasn’t just our threadbare squad though, it was watching Barnsley’s Brad Potts.
Had you even heard of Brad Potts before our games against the Tykes this season?
I know I hadn’t. Some of you perhaps still don’t know who he is. Well, he’s the exactly the type of player that has bullied us time and time again this season. Potts ran the midfield when we played Paul Heckingbottom’s side at Oakwell and was equally as impressive at the Stadium of Light.
That’s not me calling him a world beater either, this could well be the highest level Potts ever plays at, but he has qualities we severely lack. He’s tall, strong, quick to break forward and constantly causes problems in the final third. Maybe he’s only done this in the two games I’ve seen him play, but in this division most sides possess players like Potts who just know what works well in the Championship.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some positives for us in the middle lately. Who would have thought we’d have seen the day where Darron Gibson going off injured would cause genuine panic? In George Honeyman, there’s a player who will graft until his legs fall off and shows the kind of attitude we need to get us out of trouble. Hopefully a fully fit Paddy McNair will be able to show the kind of attributes I outlined earlier as well, but it will take him some time to regain his fitness.
Even so, it’s hardly a dazzling array of options in midfield when you consider Jonny Williams is permanently injured, Lee Cattermole has looked a shadow of his former self and Didier Ndong looks to be on his way out.
Options is the key word there as well. We’ve seen that Chris Coleman can get us to grind out a result, but he doesn’t have any alternatives to changes things when it’s not going our way. His only Plan B at the moment is to throw on Josh Maja and Joel Asoro, and in truth it’s unfair to place such a heavy burden on their young shoulders.
So if Didier Ndong is to leave (something that I will admit disappoints me, but if his attitude isn’t right then so be it) along with Lamine Kone (something that does not disappoint me in the slightest) then the money simply has to be reinvested.
Yes, we’re skint, but Ellis Short has to gamble now. The chairman can’t afford the club to drop into League One and if he doesn’t back Chris Coleman, that is a very strong possibility. We didn’t even spend 10% of the money we received for Jordan Pickford in the summer and what we did spend was on our second choice goalkeeper and a striker who has scored two goals.
I understand why Short may have his reservations about making funds available - mainly due to the business we did in the summer and other wasted windows - but he should remember the January we had two years ago - a window where he backed Sam Allardyce, his new manager, to make four signings, all of whom brought something different and something we lacked at the time. It got us out of trouble and we had an excellent second half of the season.
Coleman needs to be given that same grace, no matter how small the budget may be. If we’re able to shift some of our big earners for reasonable sums, there’s a chance that we can bring the players who are up for the fight - the kind of players that Coleman said he wanted here when he gave his first interview.
Our manager has already shown that he can do something with a limited squad of players, so let’s get him the capable bodies that he needs to show us something even better.
It’s a big job that he’s got on his hands, but the Sunderland owner can definitely make it a little bit easier for him - investment could literally be the difference between staying up and going down.