Chris Coleman fights to build Sunderland legacy but what can be done about Ellis Short’s ownership?

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
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Chris Coleman had barely walked through the door at the Academy of Light when he was asked, “Why not wait for the West Brom job?”.

Tony Pulis had been dismissed just moments earlier.

Sunderland owner Ellis Short. Picture by Frank Reid

Sunderland owner Ellis Short. Picture by Frank Reid

For Coleman, there is no obsession with the Premier League and certainly no sense that his legacy depends on whether he manages there again or not.

One suspects that he knew fine well that job was not coming his way before saying yes to Sunderland, but, even if it had, the thought process was that there is little to be gained, finances aside, by jumping on the conveyor belt of managers that are hauled around the bottom half of the ‘best league in the world’.

You go in, keep them up, then what?

Is there room to build a legacy? Rarely.

Coleman, like so many before him, saw the chance to walk into a colossal club on its knees and write his name in the history books.

A few months down the line and the challenge is every bit as daunting as he expected.

Most of the problems, a limited January budget being one, he knew full well about.

Some have probably taken him by surprise, particularly the continuing injuries and perhaps too the scale of the hangover from relegation when it came to wantaway players.

With 16 games left, Sunderland’s Championship future hangs in the balance.

The consequences of failure will be absolutely catastrophic and that weight will hang heavy in the coming weeks.

‘Nothing ever good came from a comfort zone’, he said on his unveiling. It will take some effort to haul this squad over the line.

One or two gripes with formations and the like aside, supporters have thrown their weight behind a man who has taken on the greatest challenge a manager can face in the British game at the moment.

Not going in to fight the fires at the bottom of the Premier League, but arriving once the blaze has taken hold and brought a club close to ash.

Many of the clubs Coleman was expected to court will find themselves in this mess at some point.

At some point, the wider game will have confront the excessive risks too many are taking to bridge the gap to the Premier League’s elite and the brutal shock therapy that has to follow when the gamble doesn’t pay off.

How many more owners have to throw their millions in, only to discover there are no guarantees and lose interest before something changes?

It is a moot point for Sunderland fans, who now consider what to do about Short’s absentee ownership.

The situation is complicated.

Everyone wants Short to sell, including himself, but, at the same time, the wreckage of his ownership has left a situation few want to take on.

There is an eye-watering debt to guarantee and major losses to suffer on fading players before someone can even think about investing in the hope of an upward curve.

In the interim, those left to sweep up the mess have little choice but to tighten the purse strings in line with rapidly declining revenue.

If no sale materialises, Coleman will, in the long run, have to pull off an extraordinary couple of transfer windows and show his powers of coaching and motivation to haul Sunderland back from the brink.

It is a task he believes is possible, one that Neil Warnock has managed at Cardiff this season, but clearly fresh investment is the only thing guaranteed to move the needle.

In the short term, he needs 25 points from 48 to likely guarantee safety.

Anger with Short and the hierarchy aside, fans will give him their backing to do so.

Beyond that, talk of action grows and while most acknowledge that it is unlikely to force Short into changing course (and it remains critical that he does not palm the club off to the first and worst bidder), perhaps a protest or a show of unity could have a galvanising effect.

Thousands upon thousands have already voted with their feet.

That so many have stayed continues to inspire given the scale of decline over the last 12 months.

Coleman stepping into the fray at Sunderland was a surprising development that could yet turn the tide.

He will get nothing but support from those who in the meantime have every right to make clear their ire at those who pushed the club to the precipice.

On home turf especially, it could even be something of a spark.