Today it was announced that pending Football League approval the club would be taken over by a global consortium led by Eastleigh FC Chairman, Stewart Donald. The news came on the back of a club statement announcing the departure of the much-respected Chris Coleman and his assistant Kit Symons.
Many questions surrounding the takeover and Coleman’s departure still remain unanswered and I’m sure in time, we’ll come to understand the realities of what has unfolded.
However bittersweet it feels now, the takeover acts as a new dawn for the football club and offered us the opportunity to embrace an optimism that has eluded Sunderland for the final years of Ellis Short’s chairmanship.
Coleman had his critics but by most he was loved and respected and it was understood that he’d accepted the impossible job. He was a man working with his hands tied behind his back - a strait-jacket even. Bystanders across the football world will judge Coleman on his record and win ratios and so will he. Across the Welshman’s six months at the club, we lost 15, drew eight and won five.
Sunderland supporters will look back on Burton away in the rain as a victory that felt so important. Coleman beaming across the pitch, arms outstretched shouting ‘Come on, you bastards’ - it felt like the start of something. It was pure footballing ecstasy. It would all come to an end against that very team, Burton Albion.
Hopefully in years to come Coleman won’t be remembered as part of the merry-go-round of managers that has presided over the club but with a subdued feeling of what could have been. Looking back across the season Coleman has been one of the few positives in a year that has been dripping with apathy and negativity.
He’s never hid from blame and he understood that honesty was something Sunderland fans needed. He provided transparency where he could, but most of all he understood Sunderland.
It’s easy to look in from the outside and see all the things wrong with the club and see us as a bit of a laughing stock. Half-empty stadium, one win in 16, £110m in debt.
Two summers ago Coleman managed a Welsh side to the semi-finals of an international tournament. He didn’t have to come here, but he did because he understood the potential and understood the people.
For Coleman it will be a bitter pill to swallow, and when all is said and done he will look back on the results on the pitch and question why things didn’t go better. If we’re honest with ourselves we all know the reasons why we’ve been relegated twice, and it’d be harsh to pin any of that blame to Chris Coleman.
Following the 2-1 defeat to Fulham on Friday night Coleman was his usual self – upbeat, dignified and committed to the club. His comments post-match suggested that even more so and his willingness to take a reduction his contract further cemented the dignified and understanding attitude he had for both the club and the values of the people in the area, as well as his long-term desire to bring footballing success to the club in the future.
This, in respect of today’s announcement, suggests that Coleman was left in the dark regarding the take-over and his future with the club, and it seems the news came as a shock. Reactions on Twitter from both his wife and his son suggest that this was a decision made against Coleman’s wishes. A cryptic tweet soon before the announcement of Coleman’s departure by his wife Charlotte alluded that something was unfolding and it seems that Coleman could well have been as out of the loop as we were.
Today, the takeover we were all craving finally materialised and in its wake Chris Coleman became the final casualty at the end of a sorry era in Sunderland’s history. Coleman won’t be short of offers and best of luck to him. The saying ‘no man is bigger than the club’ gets banded about a lot and for the most part it’s true. But Coleman was wise to that, and operated with a demeanour that respected that.
Ellis Short is finally gone and so are the debts, apparently. It’s hard to look back on the past few years of despair and defeats and see Short in a positive light. How grateful should we be? When the dust finally settles Sunderland will have a new owner and a new manager and begin the 18/19 season in the third tier of English Football.
New beginnings are on the horizon and with that comes change. It’s understandable that the new consortium want the opportunity to implement their own manager with their own philosophies but it seems like a hasty decision to part with the only man whose understood the essence of the club in so many years.
Over the coming days a lot of information will be coming out the club and a clearer picture will begin to be painted regarding what this means for the future of Sunderland. For now, it’s time to be positive, the shackles are off and we can look to the future with one eye on success rather than failure. It’s just a shame that Chris Coleman won’t be part of that.