Relegated, Sold and Sacked – Coleman Pays Price for Sunderland Woes

The improbable escape ended in defeat to Burton last weekend. A one-goal lead ended in a 2 – 1 defeat to Sunderland’s fellow strugglers and a quirk of the fixture list meant the Black Cats were down.

Three successive draws after an impressive 4 – 1 win at Derby weren’t enough; only wins would do, and Sunderland were woefully short of those this season. League One awaits, with a new manager in tow after Chris Coleman was sacked by the club’s new owners.

A consortium led by Eastleigh FC chairman Stewart Donald bought an end to Ellis Short’s controversial spell in charge of the Wearside club.

Short confirmed he “been trying to sell Sunderland” for some time. However, he “waited until the right group came along” meeting his expectations for “experience, finances and [a] plan to take this great club back to where it deserves to be.”

He admitted to being disappointed – “Overall my chairmanship has not gone the way I would have wished” – while admitting “the low points of the last two terrible seasons” have taken the shine from the Premier League years.

Donald is to “relinquish control of Eastleigh” to satisfy Football League rules. His first job is to find a replacement for Coleman. Having walked away from Wales, the former Fulham defender was unable to avert a relegation which many saw as inevitable from the start of the season.

With new ownership, the decision wasn’t a surprise. The club issued a statement confirming Coleman’s departure.

“Sunderland AFC announces that manager Chris Coleman and his assistant Kit Symons have been released from their contracts.

“The club would like to place on record its sincere thanks to Chris and Kit for their tireless efforts in what has been a hugely disappointing season for everyone involved with the club.

“The club is unable to make further comment at this time.”

Under Coleman’s stewardship, Sunderland won just five (17.2%) of their 29 games, failing to win consecutive matches in the season.

It is the low of his managerial career and left concerns the club might not immediately recover from the relegation to League One for a number of seasons. Already, they have seen a number of Championship clubs, as well as local rivals Newcastle United, looking to pick over the bones of a youthful squad.

A new owner may be the fresh start they need.

 

Why free agent Claudio Marchisio would be an excellent addition for Newcastle

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Even though Newcastle performed above expectations last season, ultimately finishing 10th, owner Mike Ashley has once again decided not to provide considerable transfer funds. With the market now closed, Rafa Benitez managed to bring in seven new players, but half of them arrived on loan or on a free transfer. So it remains questionable whether the Magpies will be able to build on their mid-table finish, or they’ll have to settle for the same or worse.

However, there’s still a chance to strengthen the side, with a couple of interesting free agents available. The name that stands out is that of former Italy international Claudio Marchisio.

The 32-year old midfielder, who is one of the Juventus icons in the new century, the Turin outfit after 13 years. He’s now looking for a new challenge, and Newcastle should do everything in their power to bring him to St. James’ Park. The best online bookmakers have all suggested that the Italian midfielder could be a solid addition to this Newcastle side. Given that Rafa Benitez works well with seasoned campaigners the odds can never go wrong here. A good place to check the current offers is .

Over the last three campaigns, Marchisio boasts an 88% passing success rate, while also averaging well over one tackle, one interception and one chance created per 90 minutes. And while it’s true his presence has not been felt as massively as before in recent times, he’s still an amazing footballer.

The midfielder has 55 caps to his name for Italy, he has won the Serie A 7 times, the Coppa Italia 4 times, and the Super Cup another three. He was also part of the Italian team that finished as runners-up in the UEFA Euro 2012.

Marchisio possesses a wide passing range and can shoot well from distance, while he also contributes well in defence and is strong in the air. He’s technically gifted and extremely experienced, which makes him a perfect addition to the Magpies squad, urgently in need of strengthening in the middle of the park.

While it’s true Benitez has Mo Diame, Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-yueng at his disposal, Marchisio is not only more talented and experienced than any of them, but his presence in the dressing room is sure to be felt. He can become a real leader for the Tyneside club and can help his younger teammates develop their skills.

Of course, it will be difficult to convince the Italian to join Newcastle, especially with reports floating around that Portuguese powerhouses Benfica and Porto are after him. But it’s worth a try, and if Benitez is successful, bringing in Marchisio could be the Transfer of the Decade for the Magpies.

Tottenham Hotspur are eyeing a summer move for West Ham United full-back Arthur Masuaku

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As per a report from , Tottenham Hotspur are eyeing a summer move for West Ham United full-back Arthur Masuaku.

The same has gone on to claim that Spurs are targetting the 24-year-old as a replacement for Danny Rose, should he choose to join Manchester United once the transfer window commences. Estimated to be valued at according to , is Masuaku the right tichoice for Tottenham?

Masuaku had joined West Ham in 2016 after completing a move from Greek club Olympiacos. He took a while to make a mark for himself but the player soldiered on and eventually, his hard work paid off. The versatile Frenchman has become a first-team regular for the Hammers this season and has been a beacon of hope in what has been a terrible campaign for the East London outfit.

They are fighting hard to preserve their top-flight status beyond the end of this season but if they fail to survive in the Premier League, there will be widespread anger and frustration among the fans.

To be fair, West Ham do not have a bad team. They have some promising players in their ranks and yet, they appear to falter on the big stage. If they survive relegation, the upcoming transfer window will be an important phase for them but selling a fan favourite to a local rival club might not be the best move at a time like this.

However, as far as Tottenham are concerned, a player like Masuaku could prove to be a good addition. He can play either as a full-back or a wing-back and that is something Mauricio Pochettino will bear in mind.

The Spurs manager has alternated between using a three-man backline with wing-backs and a traditional four-man backline with full-backs this season. In either situation, Masuaku can fit right in. Although has claimed that the player is happy at West Ham, he might find the prospect of playing in the Champions League too tempting to turn down.

Furthermore, the defender can work wonders higher up the pitch as well and that is something Pochettino always looks for in full-backs. The likes of Kieran Trippier who will be fighting with Walker for a place in the England squad with suggesting that he might play a few minutes and Ben Davies have managed to hold onto their first-team spots solely because of their abilities to attack and defend with equal gusto. And on that end, a move for Masuaku could prove to be extremely beneficial for Spurs.

Needless to say, it remains to be seen if West Ham are willing to agree to a sale in the first place.

 

Hamilton v Celtic preview: Can the Hoops notch up a stunning win after goalless draw against Dundee?

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In a season full of them, Celtic characteristically slipped up again in their game in hand against Dundee during midweek. In a scoreless draw, it was Dundee who came closest to finding a goal, through a freak challenge by Dedryck Boyata that sent the ball spinning onto the post. Not that it will matter; Celtic are still 10 points ahead of nearest challengers Aberdeen with just 6 games left to play.

Brendan Rodgers will be looking for a reaction from his players tomorrow though, and a fixture against league strugglers Hamilton may present the perfect platform.

The home side are only 5 points way from the relegation zone – albeit with a game in hand on their rivals – and this game arguably matters more to them than Celtic.

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Martin Canning, therefore, will have his players primed for the importance of it all. They’re unfortunate to have captain Dougie Imrie out through injury while Celtic may see the return of key defender Kieran Tierney in time to make the team, although Rodgers might be wary of risking him on Hamilton’s notorious artificial pitch.

He has goalkeeper Craig Gordon back in the first-team after he started against Dundee, and will have to decide whether to remain with him or bring back the impressive Scott Bain. Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts, in relieving news for supporters, are now fit and will be hoping for some game time.

Celtic have enjoyed their recent history with Hamilton: they’ve never lost at New Douglas Park, and Hamilton have only won just one of their previous 20 top-flight league meetings with their lofty opponents.

Celtic’s next game is the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers and Rodgers might have one eye on that important fixture when picking his starting lineup tomorrow. He’ll certainly want to win to take his side another step closer to their 7th league title in a row, but he’ll not want to risk losing any key players to unnecessary injuries.

Wolves star Romain Saiss believes squad has courage to succeed in the long run

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It’s a decisive week in Wolverhampton Wanderers season. Friday night sees the Championship leaders visit second-placed Cardiff City before hosting playoff contenders Derby County at Molineux.

Defeat in south Wales will see Neil Warnock’s side favourites to win the title, something which seemed heading inexorably toward the West Midlands. The Bluebirds, six points adrift, have a game in hand and are in touching distance with goal difference.

It’s a tough run of fixtures which began with the 2 – 1 victory at Middlesbrough, a win which took its’ toll in Tuesday night’s 2 – 2 home draw with Hull City. The Tigers were on their way to a famous victory until Oskar Buur Rasmussen heading an equaliser with seven minutes remaining.

Morocco international Romain Saiss, a lynchpin for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, welcomed the point. As per a report from Derby Telegraph, the player said, “The next 10 days are the most important.”

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“We played against Middlesbrough with nine players against 11 and it was a very hard game again (against Hull City),” the defensive midfielder told reporters afterwards.

“I think we were a little tired. We have to think now about the next game on Friday. It’s an important game for us, and after that Wednesday.”

Cardiff also drew in midweek, although may feel their point at Bramall Lane was a better result with Sheffield United still in contention for the playoffs. It stretched the Welsh club’s unbeaten run to 11 games, nine of which were won.

They too have a tough fixture list, following Friday night’s match with a trip to Villa Park. Saiss believes all the teams are in the same boat.

“It is very important mentally because every player, every team is tired, because the Championship is so long,” he said, before offering the view that “£it’s a very difficult league and it makes a difference mentally.”

The match at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night could be the toughest of Wolves season yet but showing the resolve to win at Middlesbrough before mustering a late equaliser against Hull, will stand the Championship leaders in good stead.

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman looking to Leeds for late season gifts

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Sunderland boss Chris Coleman refuses to give up his quest for Championship survival. For the sixth time this season, the Black Cats were unable to string back-to-back wins together and combined with other results, their plight is desperate.

Sheffield Wednesday left the Stadium of Light after two goals in seven second-half minutes completed the Owls 3 – 1 victory. It was a defeat which left Sunderland eight points adrift of safety.

With only 18 points remaining, they are running out of time which is not lost on manager Chris Coleman.

As per a report from Chronicle Live, the Welshman spoke positively regarding the coming games, beginning with the weekend’s trip to Elland Road. “We can go to Leeds and win,” he said.

“It won’t be easy but we can go anywhere in this division and win – it happens all the time.”

Overly optimistic according to some. The Black Cats are only off the bottom of the table by goal difference, with Burton’s considerably worse. Eight points, however, is still a considerable deficit to make up when the side has won just six games all seasons.

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“The endeavour was there [on Monday], we played without fear and what cost us was two mistakes.”

Mistakes are the currency of relegation and the Wearsiders must eliminate them from their game.

Things are, however, improving with supporters backing the players. “Our supporters clapped the lads off,” Coleman appreciated. “They recognise when they see a team doing their best, we’ve been booed off here at times this season and rightly so.”

Had the effort been there earlier the season, Sunderland might not be in the precarious position they find themselves.

Coleman cannot afford to dwell on the past.

“The last two performances were more like it,” he observed, before continuing, “and if we do that in the next six games we can win three, that’s for sure.”

“It’s a big job for us but we have to see Leeds United as the last game of the season for us.”

He will already be aware of the poor record of this weekend’s opponents. Leeds have only won once in 2018 and Coleman will be determined to avoid adding to that tally.

Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter not losing faith despite recent wobbles

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The only thing certain in the Championship promotion race is that the teams qualifying for the play-offs are going about it the hard way. Except for Fulham, who are making a decent fist of hanging onto Cardiff City’s coat-tails.

Derby County were desperate to drop out of contention, only ending an eight-game winless run at Preston yesterday. Aston Villa lost a couple of games recently and Middlesbrough are throwing their lot in with the inconsistent as well.

Bristol City, Millwall, Sheffield United, and Preston are all being given shards of hope that they may still make the playoff lottery.

Middlesbrough skipper Grant Leadbitter refuses to be downcast after the Teesiders draw at Bolton Wanderers left them locked in a run of three games without a win, as per a report from The Bolton News.

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“Sometimes you’ve just got to get something out of a game, but we have to perform better than we did, it’s as simple as that. We have to perform better, and we have to get wins across the line to keep us in the top six.”

He raised question marks about what is happening on the club’s Rockliffe Park Training Complex.

“It’s about doing the right things day by day. You have to get it right on the training pitch, day by day, because when you do that, nine times out of ten you get things right on the pitch during the game.”

With things not going right on the pitch, are ‘Boro getting it wrong on the training pitch or is it just the one time out of ten lined up in all three of the last games?

Leadbitter isn’t giving up and urged supporters to do the same.

“That’s really the message we have to stick with. We keep going. It’s a long season, we keep saying that, and we just have to keep going. It’s exciting. I’m sure it was tough for the fans to watch, but they’ll stick with us.”

The run-in sees Middlesbrough face a gruelling and decisive four-match spell: a trip to Sheffield United is followed by the visit of Bristol City to the Riverside, topped off by an away game at Derby and hosting Millwall, all in an 18-day spell.

If they are to reach the play-offs, ‘Boro will need to bottle Leadbetter’s spirit and hand it out to each member of the squad.

Sunderland dare to dream but manager Chris Coleman wary of complacency

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Chris Coleman savoured the 4 – 1 thrashing of promotion-chasing Derby County at Pride Park last Friday but knows they still have a lot of work to do if they are to pull off the greatest escape of all.

The former Wales boss knows better than anyone that Sunderland hasn’t won back-to-back games previously this season and remain five points adrift of safety.

Birmingham City, fourth from the bottom of the table, are staging their own revival, winning consecutive games, tempering some of the relief at the win over the Rams.

As per a report from Chronicle Live, Coleman said: “At Christmas, we beat Forest away and then we played Barnsley at home and we were rubbish, really poor, nervous.

“Barnsley dictated the tempo that day and they ended up winning from a set-play. I will speak to the players about that, about backing it up and having the courage to back it up.

“We have to look at Monday as being the last game for us.”

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Facing Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon, Coleman knows they must improve their form in every game between now and the end of the season. “I am not putting extra pressure on us,” he noted; “It is what it is.”

There was no glossing over the fundamental problem which sees the Wearsiders facing consecutive relegations, taking them from the Premier League to League One.

“We haven’t won back-to-back games this season. We have to look at it after the last game and see where we come out at the end of it.”

Sunderland have a tough run-in, facing promotion hopefuls Fulham and champions-elect Wolverhampton Wanderers in their final two games. Before that, there are relegation six-pointers against Reading and Burton Albion; survival is going to be hard-fought.

The consolation for Coleman is that Birmingham City face an equally difficult final seven games. Garry Monk’s side has the solace of points in hand to keep them going.

Sunderland’s backs are against the wall; can they get the Stadium of Light to back them through to the end of the season? Repeating the performance levels of Friday’s win at Derby will be a good start.

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