It feels a lot longer than just four years ago, but November 2017 saw the appointment of Chris Coleman as the new Sunderland manager - the 19th November to be precise.
The announcement was made almost three weeks after a paradoxically dismal 3-3 draw against Bolton Wanderers on Halloween, where the post-match press conference consisted of a statement by the club informing everyone that Simon Grayson was the former manager of Sunderland.
The draw against Bolton was our 13th successive game without a victory, where the previous win came on the 13th August at Norwich City - a win that remained our only victory of the season as we changed the manager in November.
By the time Robbie Stockdale had presided over a defeat at Middlesbrough and a home draw against Millwall, (which saw possibly the worst collective display from two goalkeepers that the Stadium of Light has ever witnessed), Sunderland sat rock bottom of the Championship.
24-hours later, it was confirmed that then 47-year-old Chris Coleman had left his post as manager of the Welsh national side, that he had held for six successful years, to take on the challenge at Sunderland.
On our part it seemed like a bit of a coup, and on Coleman’s part, a gamble of epic proportions.
His first game on the sidelines took us to Villa Park, to take on Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa who were sitting 4th in the table and in the hunt for automatic promotion to the Premier League. It maybe came as no surprise when Villa ran out 2-1 winners, but there were signs from the performance in the West Midlands that provided hope that Coleman was the man to change our fortunes.
The next fixture might have only been his second in charge but it was a huge one. As we sat rooted to the foot of the table on 11 points after 18 games, Bolton were 2 points better off in 23rd, and just above them, occupying the final relegation position 3 points ahead of us, was Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion - who were our next opponents at the Pirelli Stadium.
Paddy McNair and Lee Cattermole returned from injury to the starting line-up to replace Darren Gibson and Lynden Gooch who returned to the bench after making the starting XI at Aston Villa.
As is usually the case with these games, the first half was a nervous midfield battle, with both sides having a similar portion of possession and chances. But it would be the home side who probably had the best chance in the first half, when Marvin Sordell should have done better when he shot wide, although Aiden McGeady went close for the Lads.
As the game got more tense and nervous in the later stages, we finally saw goals as the game could have gone either way.
With five minutes remaining, a cross from Bryan Oviedo found James Vaughan at the back post who nodded home to give Coleman’s side the lead and a few minutes later George Honeyman sealed the points with our second which started the party in the away end that Chris Coleman wanted to take full advantage of:
In the position we are in you don’t care where wins come from. They have got to come and come frequently and consistently so it’s a good start and a base for us.
I have told the players to enjoy it and milk it for 24 hours because we are used to walking out of a dressing room feeling depressed and feeling down because we haven’t got what we wanted, hence my reaction with the supporters after the game.
It was obvious on the final whistle how much the win meant to the new manager, players and fans, as it appeared we had hope that we could survive in the Championship – but as it turned out it would be an all too rare good day in the midst of an utterly miserable season.
Saturday 25th November 2017
Sky Bet Championship
Burton Albion 0-2 Sunderland
[Vaughan 84’, Honeyman 88’]
Sunderland: Ruiter, Matthews, Browning, O’Shea, Oviedo, McManaman (Asoro), Cattermole, McNair (Gibson), McGeady (Vaughan), Honeyman, Grabban Substitutes not used: Steele, Love, Galloway, Gooch
Burton Albion: Bywater, Akins, Flanagan, Murphy, Naylor, Turner, Scannell (Allen), Palmer, Sordell, Sbarra (McFadzean), Miller (Mason) Substitutes not used: Ripley, Warnock, Lund, Varney