Chris Coleman's first comments on his future reflect everyone's fears of another uncertain Sunderland summer

This season has been a brutal, chastening experience for everyone involved with Sunderland who had hoped that a short spell away from the Premier League glare might be therapeutic and perhaps even a little fun.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 1:00 pm
Sunderland manager Chris Coleman.

No one more so than Ellis Short, who watched the opening night draw with Derby County, enthused by a promising display.

What quickly became clear from there was that Sunderland were thoroughly unprepared for the season, caught cold by the physical demands of the Championship and with a squad that was simply not fit for purpose.

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

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The visit of Preston North End will not be keenly anticipated because they are precisely the kind of hard-running outfit that have turned the Black Cats over time and time again this season.

Short retreated, seemingly indefinitely, emerging only after Simon Grayson’s sacking to say that this squad should not be in bottom three.

Nearly half a year later, it is quite clear that assessment was wrong.

This squad is where it is because it is unbalanced and lacking quality right through the spine.

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

His assertion, too, that the long-term goal is to get Sunderland to seventh in the Premier League seems hollow in the extreme given that he did little to correct the glaring, fundamental shortcomings.

Chris Coleman was fully aware of the situation when he came to the club, but probably thought that at the very least, Short may introduce himself personally.

Instead, he has been left to try and turn around the oil tanker with no idea what happens next if he manages it.

His comments on his future last week were measured and given his struggles so far, he is hardly likely to push publicly for backing and serious investment.

Nevertheless, anyone can see that this club needs attention, clarity and some level of spend on the squad, regardless of what league it is in next season.

Supporters will be reassured that Coleman has begun planning with Martin Bain for four scenarios.

For life in the second tier with no budget, a small budget and a real budget.

The fourth, the dreaded but now likely scenario that Sunderland are a third-tier club.

The big question, of course, is whether Coleman is there to see them through.

Last season, David Moyes drew up plans and targets, but walked when Short made clear there would be no money to spend. Moyes got many things wrong on Wearside and his departure was much needed, but he was fundamentally correct in two of his assertions: that Sunderland could not conquer this division on the cheap and that they could not gamble on players with mixed injury and playing records.

That will be as true next season as it was then.

Coleman will not demand a major budget and there are plenty of teams in the top 12 who have shown you can mix it with the richest on fairly modest means.

What he will want, however, is clarity and the scope to move quickly to shape the squad as he sees fit.

Last summer, takeover talks and managerial uncertainty left Sunderland in limbo, just as they had been every season for years.

It is worth remembering that Gus Poyet is the last manager to enter a full pre-season with some working knowledge of his squad and the club, given that even Dick Advocaat too time to commit his future in 2015.

That is unsustainable and for all results have been disappointing, Coleman has shown a pride in his role and a strength of character to hint at better days ahead.

The biggest fear is that uncertainty will mean we might never see what he is capable of, left to wonder ‘what if’.

There is nothing new in this, but it is worth repeating over and over again. Short either needs to take responsibility for the future or find someone who will. Last September, he vowed to see Sunderland through their crisis.

Appointing Chris Coleman was one positive step in that battle, but the backing he has had since then has been poor.

He fights on manfully but among those watching on, fears grow.

We have been here too many times before.