We Need To Talk About Chris
June 12th 2015. Chris Coleman has just guided Wales to victory against Belgium in front of a fervent, deafening Cardiff City Stadium. Wales top Group B and reside in the box seat for qualification to the European Championships in France. Chris Coleman is being hailed in some quarters as Wales’ greatest ever manager. And yet to many Coleman is still not the hero of the hour and the idea that he is a fraud lingers. Hywel Picken (@thescarletway) looks back on Coleman’s managerial career and examines whether this is fair
Rewind to September Tuesday 9th 2014. We have just limped to a 2-1 victory against the perennially awful Andorrans on a plastic pitch courtesy of a Gareth Bale belter. The first game of qualifying and we had been forced into playing the get out of jail free card in ignominious fashion after a wretched performance. A one man team, dragging his hapless, philandering manager along with him. Has anyone got Tony Pulis’ number?
How did Coleman’s Wales plot their victory over the Belgians?
It was the tactics – that’s Osian Roberts.
It was the training – again, Osian Roberts.
They’ve moved their team HQ from the Jail of Glamorgan to the Marriott – that’s the FAW at the behest of the players.
It is down to Gareth Bale – Bobby Gould would have been successful with him in the team.
Poor old Chris. The lucky, freeloading, Jack bastard.
So what is the truth about Chris? Magnificent manager or bungling boss?
As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In the media hyperbole is king. Clickbait stokes the imagination and the constant desire for news drives the national press to deliver substandard, frenzy inducing fluff such as, “Which is better – rugby or football?”, or ,”Is Chris Coleman the best manager Wales have ever had?” The age of social media only encourages us to act. Click this, vote here, abuse, shout, swoon.
Whatever you do, don’t act with any reason or self control. Who needs the facts when you have Twitter?
Deal only in facts. And in Coleman’s case they are as follows:
- He took control of Fulham in April 2003, replacing an expensively assembled but struggling Jean Tigana team and guided them to safety.
- The following season with a team spearheaded by Louis Saha and Louis Boa-Morte he led the Cottagers to 9th, a feat only bettered in Fulham’s EPL history by Roy Hodgson (2009/10) and Mark Hughes (2010/11) who finished in 7th and 8th respectively.
- In 2004/05 Fulham finished 13th. The side had lost Louis Saha to Manchester United and replaced him with a diet version of Andy (sorry, Andrew) Cole, who was well into his dotage at 34 years old.
- In 2005/06 he guided Fulham to 12th with a side that had a striking pool that contained EPL luminaries in the form of Heidar Helguson, Collins John and Brian McBride.
- 2006/07 saw things turn sour for Chris and he was sacked in April. Mitigating factors that season included the loss of Louis Boa-Morte and Steed Malbranque who were, at the time, two good quality Premier League players. He was replaced by Lawrie Sanchez…
The fact is that Chris Coleman established Fulham as a Premier League team. There is no shame in the way it ended. A four year tenure at a Premier League club with the standing of Fulham should be commended not treated with snide derision. The average lifespan of a Premier League manager is less than 3 seasons.
Real Sociedad were in 5th place in Segunda Division when Coleman left in December 2008. He cited a difference of opinion with the club president. Hardly disastrous. Hardly sparkling.
Coventry wasn’t great for Chris. He took over in February 2008 and he was sacked in April 2010. They remained in the Championship.
Mired in financial difficulties Coventry were relegated to League One, where they remain today, in 2012.
Coleman took charge of Greek side Larissa in 2011.
- In his 12 competitive matches he lost only one and his side conceded only 3 goals.
- Having not been paid for 3 months he resigned in January 2012.
- In the immediate aftermath of his departure Larissa lost 9 of their next 12 games.
He took charge of Wales in January 2012 under difficult circumstances.
- He lost his first 5 fixtures as manager, this poor sequence culminated in the appalling 6-1 defeat to Serbia.
- In the 19 fixtures since October 2012, Wales have lost 5 times. They have lost to Croatia (twice), Serbia, Macedonia and Holland.
- Of these 19 games they have won 9 and drawn 5. Wins have included Belgium, Iceland, Austria and Scotland. We have drawn twice away with Belgium.
These are the facts.
There is no hyperbole or propaganda. I am not related to Chris Coleman and neither do I profess to be his biggest fan. After the Serbian debacle I was as critical as anyone. However, back handed, begrudging compliments are unfair.
Like or loathe Cookie, if you are a Welsh fan, he deserves your respect. We are on the brink of qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since Sweden in 1958. Who cares if he delegates to Osian Roberts? Alex Ferguson appointed Carlos Quieroz at Manchester United to help guide them back to the pinnacle of European football. Fergie was rarely seen on the training pitch barking orders or conducting proceedings. The plaudits for United’s two decades of dominance are not credited to Queiroz, Rene Meulenesteen, Steve Mclaren or Mike Phelan.
How can he compare Coleman to Ferguson I hear you cry? I am not. I’m merely highlighting that delegation is seen as a skill in Fergie’s case and as admission of an innate lack of competence in the case of Coleman.
Modern football is an ever changing landscape. Yesterday’s hero can soon become tomorrow’s pantomime villain. Just ask Brendan Rodgers. Who knows what the future holds?
In the present, France 2016 beckons.
What more can he do?