How Chris Coleman should approach final two games after the worst day in Sunderland's 139-year history

Regular readers will be aware that this column at least attempts to inject a certain level of levity into the routinely grim affairs of Sunderland AFC.

Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 9:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th April 2018, 9:46 am
Dejected Sunderland players after the Burton game.

This is easier to achieve in some weeks than others. I don’t mind admitting that levity is at something of a premium this week.

You will derive more chortles from the Book of Revelation than anything written about Sunderland at the moment.

I am privileged, regardless of the football results, to be paid to do this.

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However, writing a column on a topic you are simultaneously trying not to think about, is asking much of any scribe; let alone one who only occasionally attended school.

Most of my time since Saturday has been spent alone in a darkened room; disinterestedly watching snooker while eating those fake Bounty Bars you get in Lidl. It’s been a right rave-up.

Feelings are raw right now. Nevertheless, I don’t think it a knee-jerk exaggeration to say that April 21, 2018, was the worst day in the 139-year history of the club.

Worst so far, that is.

It’s difficult to imagine a worse way to be relegated. Saturday had the set.

First of all, it wasn’t against Wolves, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday or any of the Championship’s bigger clubs. It was against Burton Albion.

I’m not being unfair or disrespectful to Burton by putting it like that.

After all, this was the line taken, quite reasonably, by their manager back in November after his side had been beaten by Sunderland.

Nigel Clough said then: “I don’t think there’s any particular logic why we should even win a game in this league.

“Seriously. We’re Burton Albion – 4,800 supporters today. That’s just the size of the club. We were playing against a team with a stadium that holds 10 times that.”


Then there was the hope, unwanted in hindsight, given by Paddy McNair’s goal.

Burton’s equaliser was inevitably scored by formner Sunderland striker Darren Bent, who celebrated with all dignity we expected.

He waddled over to the family zone to taunt home supporters who may or may not have been born when he left Sunderland for “footba££ing reasons”.

After Sunderland had struck the crossbar, the winner was scored by Liam Boyce, who subsequently removed his shirt to reveal what looked suspiciously like a sports bra. It somehow added to the farce.

Sunderland’s “equaliser” appeared to be disallowed by the Burton goalkeeper, assisted by officials who seemed unaware of the law stating that if it isn’t deliberate, it isn’t handball.

I don’t blame the goalie, Stephen Bywater. By that stage the issue of the goal standing or not meant much more to Burton than their opponents.

In truth, the game itself was only of symbolic importance to Sunderland, who would have gone down anyway at a later date even if they had won. Good luck to Burton who are not done yet.

But the match will long be remembered on Wearside for more salt being rubbed more vigorously into deeper wounds.

One day we might think this is funny.

So what now? There are, I’m afraid, two more fixtures to endure. They should be used as constructively as possible.

Injuries aside, there is little point in playing loan players in either game. Give some experience to a youngster or two.

There is a possibility that both remaining games will be televised, so any player the club wishes to sell should play in the “shop window”.

This invites an obvious joke, But who would even consider buying a player not deemed good enough to even play for Sunderland?

As for when this pitiful season finally ends?

Well, there are a million opinions out there as to who should stay, go, or arrive. My opinions are no more valid than anyone else’s.

But I will say that whatever is done after May 6, then it should be done immediately – if not sooner.