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Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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On This Day (29 April 2018): All change at Sunderland as manager sacked and new owners inbound!

Three years ago at the Stadium of Light, huge announcements regarding the club’s future were released, one week before the final game of the season...

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

It’s such a weird feeling to be looking back on this day - only three years ago. In many ways I feel like we’re so removed from this day, but in many other ways I feel we’re still living it.

The news started spreading quickly around the city as it started to break, and then it just kind of snowballed throughout what was from memory a sunny Sunday in April.

It was following a Friday night fixture at promotion chasing Fulham, then led by Slavisa Jokanovic and who would eventually beat Aston Villa in the play-off final to book a place in the Premier League, where Sunderland had against all odds put in a decent performance.

We took the lead through Joel Asoro just before the half hour mark, and maybe should have extended our lead, before Lucas Piazon equalised just before the interval with the help of a shocking decision by the officials.

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Sunderland players celebrate Joel Asoro giving Sunderland the lead at Fulham in April 2018
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Aleksandar Mitrovic then scored the winner with just under 15 minutes left on the clock, as we battled with a mixture of young and old - but we were ok, and that didn’t happen all that often.

Despite the half decent performance, the defeat in the capital was our sixth without a win and was part of a run that consisted of only 1 win in 17 to leave us six points adrift of Burton Albion at the bottom of the Championship.

Everyone knew something had to give but even in the aftermath at Craven Cottage, it was clear nobody was the wiser as to how or when things would change - not least manager Chris Coleman...

We’ve got to change a lot, there needs to be big changes. We need to get rid of the uncertainty - who is going to own the club and what the plan is. As long as we know that, we can draw a line under that and say, ‘let’s have a crack at this’ because it’s about bouncing back immediately. It’s as simple as that.

Fulham v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Chris Coleman on the touchline during his last game as Sunderland manager at Fulham
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

He was confirmed as Simon Grayson’s replacement on the 19th November 2017, and was handed a two-and-a-half-year deal in what was considered by many to be a coup for Sunderland and a huge disappointment for the Football Association of Wales, who had arguably lost the most successful manager in the history of the Welsh national team.

Many in football stated immediately the size of the task and the huge risk that the ex-Fulham manager was taking in returning to club management at Sunderland. Swansea-born Coleman emerged as the front runner on a shortlist that was rumoured to have included ex-Sunderland striker Ally McCoist, as well as Barnsley manager Paul Heckingottom and Northern Ireland national manager Michael O’Neill.

If the new manager had purely seen how the club had been run in the best part of a decade before he was appointed he would have known how big a task that lay in front him, but one glance at the Championship table on the day of his appointment would have confirmed his worst fears.

In his first eight games in charge we managed to win three games, including home win over Fulham through a single Josh Maja goal, that was our first home victory in almost a calendar year. Considering we had one solitary win on the board from the first 17 fixtures of the season, Coleman’s start in the hotseat were enough to raise hopes as we were lifted out of the drop zone for the first time since the opening weeks of the season.

It was at this point it all started to go wrong again - 1 win in 13 meant Sunderland were deep in trouble as a win at Pride Park at the end of March provided a glimmer of hope, before the inevitable was confirmed at the Stadium of Light with a defeat to a Burton Albion with a goal from our old friend Darren Bent.

The next fixture was Chris Coleman’s last, which was that previously mentioned ‘free-hit’ at high-flying Fulham, and two days later on a bright, cold, spring Sunday, exactly three years ago to the day, the yellow and black ticker on the Sky Sports News feed started to reveal that things were moving at Sunderland.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
After being silent for so long, Ellis just kept dropping the news on this day three years ago
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Firstly, around lunchtime, the announcement came that we had parted company with Chris Coleman as manager. Which to most, came as a shock. His record at Sunderland would read 5 victories and 16 defeats in 29 fixtures in charge, but there were many who thought the ex-Wales manager might be the one to have a crack at getting us back out of the third tier at the first attempt, but it wasn’t to be.

Only moments after the first bombshell of the day, the second was dropped. The club released a statement announcing that a deal had been agreed to sell the club to an “international consortium of football investors”, where one of the potential sticking points was that the leader of the group had to relinquish control as chairman of Eastleigh FC - which probably should have had alarm bells ringing.

Three years ago. Seems like an age.


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