I’ve been in Chris Coleman’s situation many times. It’s late at night and you’re hungry, so you start scratching around the kitchen cupboards praying you’ll come across something resembling food.
There’s no milk, so that’s cereal ruled out, and that tin of Heinz Tomato soup that’s been at the back of the cupboard since you moved in (just in case of emergency), has been snaffled by someone earlier that day. The empty tin lid still at the side of the hob – the red soup dripping onto the work top – could easily have been thrown into the bin but then again, they wouldn’t have been able to taunt you with it, knowing there’s nothing else left to eat.
A second inspection makes you reconsider the already-opened packet of pitta breads that are so dry they feel more like crackers now and you retreat to the fridge to see what you can fill them with. It’s even slimmer pickings in here though.
There’s some Hot Sauce you once bought to put on chicken because the label looked cool but it turned out it was so hot you had to down a litre of milk and vowed never to touch it again, a vacuumed packet of baby beetroots and the unopened cheese left over from Christmas. The reason why it has not been opened becomes clear as soon as the seal is broken.
So there you have it. Rancid cheese and beetroot pitta with hot sauce. See! I understand Chris Coleman’s predicament; I’ve been there.
The difference is, Chris can’t just throw the pitta-ful sandwich in the bin and go to bed until the morning, like I did. My job doesn’t depend on it and he has to make a meal from his very limited options.
All of the above are true events but what I failed to mention was that I remembered about the loaf of stollen I’d unearthed after binning the pitta and it was brought to my attention there was some powdered milk in the cupboard. You might think I’ve made the powdered milk bit up, but that’s true as well. In a former life my girlfriend obviously spent time in air raid shelters during the Second World War.
Stollen, coffee, powdered milk. Saved!
It’s the type of result I was holding out for these past few days. I was hoping that Chris Coleman could stumble across his stollen.
It was always going to be this way though. There was never going to be any cheddar left in the fridge and anyone who thought the promise of it was what persuaded Coleman to take the job, was wrong. It was always going to be down to miraculously bringing in money for unwanted squad members or playing the loan market.
I wasn’t too perturbed by that though. A new player is a new player, regardless whether they’re more of a permanent fixture or not. It’s about getting it right, either way.
The past three windows haven’t exactly been a cause for wild optimism. They’ve been met with a ‘Who?’ and a ‘Why?’ rather than a ‘Wow!’ but there’s plenty of unknowns out there who can do jobs in the Championship.
Mark Robins used the loan market excellently whilst at Barnsley. Looking back through some of his recruitments, three of them went on to earn England caps and are still around the squad.
He took Kieran Trippier from Manchester City before he went on to Burnley and now Spurs, Danny Drinkwater from Manchester United before he went on to win the title with Leicester City and now at Chelsea, and Jay Rodriguez from Burnley before he went on to Southampton and now West Brom.
These were players who were still in limbo between first team and development football and flourished when given the chance.
The players are out there and although the club’s position and circumstances may be off-putting to the parent clubs of potential targets because of the pressure put on them here, as one of my old managers would say, that’s what produces diamonds. Synthetic ones, anyway.
Kazenga LuaLua’s arrival begged the question ‘Can’t we sign a player who hasn’t played for Newcastle and previously slagged the club off?’ but what’s done is done. It goes to show more than ever that players need to watch what they say but, on the other hand, if he had been a Sunderland player telling us he hated Newcastle then you would not blame him for trying to endear himself to the fans.
I for one can afford him some forgiveness. I attended the Newcastle v Swansea game recently and I have to say any apprehension I had was wasted energy. Initially, I felt like Ross Kemp infiltrating a gang in some far-off corner of the world but without the bullet-proof vest.
I tried to slip in and keep my head down but I’d overplayed the reaction. The worst remarks I got was a few people asking if I’d got lost and ended up there by mistake.
Just being there wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t the best of days to be making my first return to St James’s since I’d lost 6-1 there with Barnsley. I can’t think of any worse place to be while watching Cardiff City put four past us without reply, on TV.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone. I huddled at the back of the Press room with Ally McCoist and Kieron Brady as we rolled our eyes with each goal. Not that there was much mocking going on.
There were a few chuckles but there was a decent portion of pity for us from around the room. I’m just not sure if that’s worse or not.