Echoes of Sam Allardyce as Chris Coleman bids to win the hearts, and minds, of the Sunderland squad
'I think they've forgotten what it takes to get results. I have to guide them through that process.'
So said Sam Allardyce, reeling from watching his Crystal Palace side capitulate to a 4-0 defeat against his former club in February.
The message of his post-match interview was not so subtle. From now, we do it my way.
It took time, and signings, but eventually things clicked and Allardyce shepherded Palace to safety in much the same fashion he had done with Sunderland a year previous.
Throughout his all too brief spell in the North East, Allardyce, years ahead of the curve in player psychology and sports science, spoke incessantly of the need to rid the players of any fear factor and get them mentally right to execute their roles without distraction.
To be consistent even when, especially when, things go wrong.
It was also a key tenant of Chris Coleman’s Wales success, benefiting and buying into years of modernisation behind the scenes at the FAW. Euro 2016 glory owed much to Bale and Ramsey, yes, but also to significant off-field improvements over a period of time.
Coleman faces a similar battle to turn around a Sunderland side where losing habits seem ingrained and an embarrassing run without a win at home is clearly taking its toll.
Coleman’s message will be familiar to anyone who has heard Sam Allardyce talk about beating the drop.
“We are where are.
“We’ve got to get away from trouble. Forget about where are in 10 games, five games, concentrate on that next game.
“It’s not even about the next result, you’ve got to find a footing and start getting consistency in performances. That’s what you have to do to get results to give you something to build on.
“You can’t just say, by hook or by crook we’ve got to win today, that’s all well and good but players have to understand the gameplan, and you have to be consistent in that.
“Once you do that results turn sooner or later, and I do believe that. It’s going to be a long, long hard season, no doubts about that.
“I think sometimes you can think you can concentrate too much on that [fan reaction].
“When you worry about that, that’s when you forget about the other things, the gameplan, which is what it is all about that. The performance.
“We get carried away with: “Do you know what, I’ve just made a mistake, I was poor last week, I’ve made another one here, the fans don’t like me.”
“We have to remove all of that, you have to as a professional person say, it isn’t going so well but I remember the gameplan.
“Everyone makes a mistake but it is what you do after that, that’s what counts. We have to remove all the doubt, say, this is the gameplan, stick to it come what may, believe in it.”
Coleman is under no illusions as to the size of that task, particularly in the short-term as he takes on Aston Villa with a raft of first team players out injured.
The former Wales boss has not had time to make significant changes to the side’s gameplan and faces a tall order to rescue a flat lining season, but has taken solace in the presence of an old friend behind the scenes.
Coleman and former Fulham team-mate Kevin Ball met up on Sunday night and the 47-year-old is thrilled to have his company again.
He said: “It’s funny how it works really, I was at the Sunderland v Brentford game, Kit Symons and myself, and we were talking about the Sunderland fans, they’d taken a big following down there.
“We bumped into Bally in the boardroom and we had a chat, we go back a long, long way.
“Every time I’ve spoken to him, he’s Sunderland crazy. Lo and behold here we are sitting here a month later.
“I had a cup of coffee with him last night, you know what he’s like, no punches pulled. It is nice for us to have someone here like that, who has got all the experience of this football club, knows the ins and outs. We haven’t got all the answers, we need all the help we can get.
“When I was at Fulham we came here to the Stadium of Light, when Bally was manager, last away game [of the season]I think. We were 1-0 up and the referee cancelled the game because of the snow. We were fuming.
“We came back up a week later and lost 1-0. They were tough times [for Sunderland] then and they’re tough times now.
“They’ve seen it all here, ups and downs, but the thing is when you’re down you don’t stay down for ever and when you’re up you’re not there forever either.”