Chris Coleman opens up on his Sunderland future and why he hopes for a long-term stay

Sunderland needs cleansing and regenerating.

Friday, 16th March 2018, 11:59 am
Updated Friday, 16th March 2018, 12:05 pm
Coleman says he hopes to stay at Sunderland no matter what happens in the final games of this season

That much is obvious to anyone who was watched them limp through this wretched season, heading as it stands for a brutal successive relegation.

After a January window in which little was spent, questions have inevitably turned to Chris Coleman's future.

Will the man who less than two summers ago was managing in a Euro 2016 semi-final really stick around for a spell of purgatory in League One?

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In truth, it is at this stage impossible to know and Coleman cannot make any firm guarantees.

He, like everybody else, knows that the truly defining changes will happen off the pitch and above his head. He is also fully aware that as it stands he is not in a position of particular strength. In his own words, he is yet to pull up any trees.

On one thing, however, he is absolutely unequivocal.

He hopes to stay and be the manager who starts Sunderland on a long overdue upward curve, whether that be from the second tier or the third.

"My contract is this season plus two more," he said.

"I have to be careful what I say because I don't want people to think I am being defeatist – which I'm certainly not – but it's not about what league we are in, it will be about who owns the club and what is the plan.

"Because they [a new owner] might not have me in their plans.

"If I'm not here, it won't be because I have said 'that's it'.

"I came here because I wanted to be manager of Sunderland AFC, and it will still be Sunderland AFC at the end of the season no matter where it is, and I very much want to be a part of that.

"But I can't say who is going to be here above me because I don't know.

"Obviously, Ellis doesn't want to be here and if the club is sold to a new owner, whoever that might be, I hope I am in their plans.

"I want to be here, that's what I signed up for. I wouldn't have signed the contract otherwise.

"I came here when we were in the bottom three, there was no guarantee that we would stay up, I was hoping that we would pull away [from the relegation zone] on the back of some good work with Wales, but it hasn't quite materialised.

"I've not pulled up any trees here yet, I know that," he added.

"But I came here to manage Sunderland AFC, in whatever league that is.

"I keep saying, I don't know when it will be – six months, a year, two years – the club will turn round, it won't always be this bad.

"I hope I'm here to witness that.

"It won't be about what league we are in, I am here because I want to manage Sunderland AFC.

"I don't know who is going to come in and buy the club, if someone buys the club, but that is the uncertainty, not me saying 'that's it' – absolutely not."

Conventional wisdom suggested that Coleman would have been better off waiting for a post at a more stable club, with his stock high after what he achieved in international football.

Yet the 47-year-old has never taken the obvious choice and the prospect of setting Sunderland on the right path remains as tantalising as it did when he joined in November.

"If you've been in football long enough, it's not often that everything goes swimmingly well all the time," he said.

"You get moments when it's dark, and there's an incredible amount of pressure and stress because you are failing and losing, and people are looking at you differently and judging you.

"I've had all that, I've witnessed it all. I've had good times and bad.

"I just know that when you start building something and it becomes positive and you are a part of that, it's the most incredible feeling.

"I couldn't imagine what it would be like at a club of this size to get it turned round and heading in the right direction.

"It's the opposite right now – everything is dark and gloomy.

"I feel that, I do, but I am still optimistic and confident that we can get away from where we are.

"It's going to be tight, but I'm still confident."

Coleman has begun planning for next season with chief executive Martin Bain, plotting various paths depending on what budget he will be offered.

He underlined nevertheless that his and Sunderland's future will ultimately be settled by those above him.

"We have to do some cleansing and regeneration because the club needs it," he said.

"And let's make some changes, because the club needs it.

"Hopefully we can do this from the Championship and not from the league below, but if we can't stop it and that's the way it turns out then we have to look at it as a fresh start.

"But it all rests on what happens above me, and what the gameplan is.

"I know what my gameplan is, I know what needs to be done, whether or not I will get the chance to do it...I hope I do.

"But again, we don't know who, if anybody, is going to come in, and what plans they have got.

"The uncertainty makes it quite tough."