Chris Coleman wants Sunderland to keep swinging punches but is plotting major rebuild whatever happens

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
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Sunderland are set for a significant summer rebuild, regardless of whether they can pull off a great escape in the coming weeks.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Leeds left the Black Cats seven points adrift of safety with jusfive games left.

And boss Chris Coleman, whose side host Norwich tomorrow night, admits that big changes will need to be made either way.

He said: “Come what may, even if we pull it off, we’ve got to rebuild.

“If we’re rebuilding from this league or the league below there are still changes that need to be made and it won’t really change a lot.

“The thing that’ll change how we rebuild is what happens above me and we’re all in the dark on that one. We’ve got to wait and see.”

Reports on Friday had linked Irish businessman William O’Brien with a potential takeover, but that is understood to be wide of the mark.

Niall Quinn has again distanced himself from speculation regarding his heavy involvement in a deal, though he has given advice to a group of interested UK businessmen.

Sunderland remain largely as they were, with numerous parties interested, but, as of yet, no resolution imminent.

For Coleman, then, the focus remains on the final five games. While he admits the odds are stacked massively against his team, he has been impressed with the players’ character in the last three games.

He said: “They’re not daft and there’s no sentiment in football. For us to stay up, we’ve got to win just about as many games as we have all season, really.

“It’s a big, big test for us. You wouldn’t put money on us, but we can only keep performing like that. We will win games if we do.

“Whether we’ll run out of games, I don’t know, but we haven’t yet run out of games.

“You saw our support at Leeds – they don’t deserve any of us throwing the towel in just because there’s a points gap.

“We’ve got to give it everything we’ve got.

“Our supporters appreciate a bit of heart and passion. They’ve got that in the last two or three games, so we’ve got to emulate that between now and the end of the season.

“The results will be what they’ll be – we just have to take care of the performances.”

Asked about the potential forrelegation, Coleman added: “Let’s say the worst happens and we’re faced with that. I think I said a couple of weeks ago we’re still so lucky to be doing the things we’re doing and be in the industry we are – super-lucky.

“Anybody in the stadium on Saturday would have traded places with us.

“I know it’s hard and it’s our job, blah, blah, blah, but we can’t really say we’re super-unlucky if that (relegation) happens because it’s a lot of games.

“It’s a question for us, as men, what we’ve got?

“Are we going to crawl away quietly on our hands and knees or are we going to keep swinging punches?

“That’s all you can do, keep fighting back. What will be, will be.

“It will be a test for us, no doubt.”

Coleman was left to bemoan the inconsistency that plagued his team for months after his arrival.

He said: “I’m very reluctant to use the word ‘difficult’ because I don’t like making excuses.

“We deserve to be where we are.

“It’s not five or 10 games.

“I’ve no complaints, no excuses.

“I just don’t want to have to make any excuses between now and the end of the season either.

“I just want the lads to keep playing with that.

“If you’re a manager or coach, that’s what you’re looking for.

“Sometimes you don’t get a pass off or you miss an open goal or whatever, but what you want from a group of players is them playing with their sleeves rolled up.

“It’s never enough, just ability, you’ve got to have courage and be prepared to go above and beyond.

“You never get anything under the radar and we’ve been under the radar too often this season, too inconsistent.

“But there’s no complaints from me about my players in the last three games – they’ve given me what they’ve got.”