Kevin Bell: Chris Coleman's ability to fix psychological issues at Sunderland will be vital

Welcome then Chris Coleman!

Wednesday, 22nd November 2017, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 5:06 am
Chris Coleman.

It can legitimately be seen as a coup for Sunderland to have appointed a manager whose stock is currently as high within football when the clubs is, conversely, so low.

Chief Executive Martin Bain and owner Ellis Short have been much criticised in the last year so it seems only fair to give them credit for hiring a man who would have had plenty of career options, not least of all to remain as boss of his national team.

It is vital Short and Bain make sure that having got their man they don’t consider their task complete but support the manager to the utmost.

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Credit too must go to Coleman for backing his ability and accepting the challenge.

I found much of the debate about the search for Simon Grayson’s successor odd.

The principal tone of which appeared to be that only the desperate and or unhinged need apply as the club is “unmanageable”.

The financial constraints under which SAFC are presently obliged to operate mean that Coleman will have to think rather than spend his way around the problems that afflict the Sunderland squad but that does not make the club unmanageable.

I would argue that the vacancy for Sunderland manager represented an incredible opportunity for an ambitious coach brimming with self-belief.

Expectations from supporters have never been lower. The new coach is being asked to avoid relegation from the Championship, something the club has only once ever failed to do, and to regularly win home games in the process.

The players at his disposal, whilst flawed, are certainly capable of improvement and are nowhere near the least talented in the league.

Grayson was sacked as he did not appear to be capable of extracting even level par performances from the squad he had worked so admirably to assemble.

Add to this the aforementioned general perception that no manager can succeed at Sunderland, then any prospective candidate, as the craven David Moyes would no doubt fail to acknowledge, knows they will be absolved of any blame irrespective of the extent of their failure.

The job represents a free hit. Avoid relegation and this will be chalked up as proof of their managerial bona fides.

SAFC need a lift and for there to be more of a competitive edge to performances on the pitch.

I have had the feeling watching the team this season that the game “happens to” the players rather than them asserting themselves.

Coleman as a player, captain, pundit or manager has never given the impression he is burdened with doubt in his own ability.

Though a seemingly likeable personality, he does not seem to suffer fools either.

This could mean that his man-management skills are severely tested with a squad so prone to self-harm. In his initial media duties on Sunday, Coleman was pitch perfect, exuding confidence and excitement combined with a healthy dose of realism.

If the job were an easy one there would be no glory for the person who eventually proves equal to it. Sunderland, for all the travails of recent seasons, remain a wonderful club and there is magic waiting to be woven here.

However, the new manager’s ability to fix the psychological issues at SAFC is likely to be vital if Coleman is to prove he is mustard or Cookie crumbles.

Saturday’s draw against Millwall at the Stadium of Light saw history made.

Jordan Archer’s performance was the first recorded case of one person putting the wind up several hundred Millwall fans.

Sunderland’s Robbin Ruiter did not leave Archer to suffer alone and the two keepers indulged in a flap off to see who was having the worst day.

Archer emerged victorious after his impression of a man being attacked by a herring gull allowed Adam Mathews to make the score two each.

Lewis Grabban made a point of giving Ruiter a few words of encouragement before the second half began, suggesting the players are at least sticking together whilst enduring a bad run of form.

Ruiter responded well showing the mental fortitude to at least perform well in the second half.

He dealt cleanly and confidently with a number balls lofted in the six-yard box as well as making one superb reflex save.

The Dutchman can afford no more moments of madness. Both he and Jason Steele have consistently been found wanting this season and their repeated errors have cost the team dearly so far.

Ruiter clearly has talent but Sunderland’s league position dictates that Chris Coleman may already be looking to replace him and Steele.

The two keepers are already playing for their Sunderland futures before the halfway point of their first season.

Any Sunderland player looking to salvage their career at the club should look no further than Adam Mathews for inspiration.

Mathews is starting slowly to build a solid spell of form after having been, not so much a forgotten man, as someone remembered with a shudder.

The Welshman has previously been loaned out, written off and, against Queens Park Rangers, ridiculed. Mathews has shown recently that he has a major contribution to make this season.

He has steadily become more confident and consistent showing good pace in attack and greater dependability in defence.

Mathews is not about to transform himself into Cafu but he can take pride in the determination and perseverance he has shown to warrant his place in the first team.

Hopefully, his new manager and fellow Welshman already knows enough to about him to continue the full back’s improvement.

Never one to accept a perfectly good opportunity to keep his mouth shut, Joey Barton has opted to question Chris Coleman’s mental health for being so bold as to become the manager of a club Barton doesn’t like.

A talented player in his day Barton, had a good career but one which was regularly jeopardised by his lack of respect for others.

One might have hoped that someone whose actions have so frequently proved ill-judged, he would be rather reluctant to opine on the choice made by someone whose achievements Barton so backhandedly complimented. It is a grim prospect, now that Barton’s football career is over, we can all expect more of this until his third-rate Katie Hopkins schtick goes too far.