Chris Coleman's remarkable journey back to the top of football management

Paul Clement may have been handed top job at Swansea City, but Coleman's link with the job was one of the more compelling footnotes of the entire saga

BY Cian Roche 12:44 Tuesday 10 January 2017, 12:44 10 Jan 2017

Image: Mike Egerton / PA Wire/PA Images

The final seconds ticked down at the Liberty Stadium.

Bob Bradley’s side had drawn level in one of the more bizarre games in Premier League history and they looked to have secured a hard fought (and I mean hard fought) draw against fellow strugglers, Crystal Palace. But the absurdity wasn’t finished there.

Summer signing Fernando Llorente popped up in stoppage time to score the winner. 5-4 the final score to the disbelief of the travelling fans who had led heading into the last five minutes.

Bob Bradley’s post match interview was a mixture of ecstasy and relief. The first American manager to win a top flight game in England. History maker. It wasn’t to last.

A 3-0 home win against Sunderland two weeks later was followed by three defeats on the bounce. Enough was enough for chairman Huw Jenkins and Bradley was on his way. With 11 games under his belt, Bradley joins Les Reed and Paul Sturrock with one of the shortest managerial reigns of a permanent manager in the English top flight.

Questions would then be raised as to who would be next? Crystal Palace, who had just parted ways with Alan Pardew, had snapped up former England manager, Sam Allardyce. Big Sam was viewed by many as the man who could rescue the club from what appeared to be an inevitable relegation scrap. His work at Sunderland spoke for itself.

Names were floated as to who would take over at the Welsh club, suggestions like Paul Rowett and Ryan Giggs were mentioned. Paul Clement, the man who would inevitably be handed the top job, was also tipped as a favourite for the job.

Early indications, however, said current Wales manager Chris Coleman would likely take the job. Installed as one of the bookies favourites to return to management in English football, Coleman’s rehabilitation as Wales boss is one of the more remarkable footnotes of the entire saga.

Coleman, of course, was a man with bags of Premier League experience. He took charge of Fulham back in April 2003, succeeding Jean Tigana in the hot seat. Coleman’s own playing career came to an abrupt end following a car crash in 2001.

The Swansea native was fast tracked into management and took over at the London club. He guided Fulham to four years of modest finishes in the Premier League. In 2007 after a string of poor results, he was dismissed.

From here he decided to challenge himself in a foreign league. The result? Disastrous. 

He took charge of Real Sociedad in July of that year and resigned just months later after a particularly bizarre set of circumstances.

Coleman appeared at a press conference an hour and a half late, leaving media and reporters waiting. Untraceable on his phone, when he finally showed up he blamed his tardiness on his washing machine flooding his apartment.

This was proven not to be the case when Spanish newspaper Marca published stories that suggested he was out until 5am socialising the night before. With his position untenable, he tendered his resignation.

Chris Coleman's time in charge of Real Soceidad ended in less than favourable circumstances. Image: John Walton / EMPICS Sport 

He lasted a little over two years at League One side Coventry City before being sacked at the end of the 2009/10 season and then opted for a move Greek second division side Larissa in May 2011. Citing financial difficulties within the club, he resigned.

Coleman returned to his home country after this and succeeded Gary Speed, who died in tragic circumstances, as manager of the Welsh national team. His dream job. A job that seemed so out of reach, finally within his grasp.

Things did not start well. Four defeats in the games following Wales friendly to commemorate the passing of Gary Speed, was the worst start by a Wales manager.

Back to back world cup qualifier defeats to Belgium and Serbia were low points, the latter more so as Wales suffered a 6-1 defeat in Novi Sad.

Coleman continued to fight and targeted the next major tournament, the 2016 European Championships in France. An absorbent qualifying campaign saw them finish second behind a star studded Belgian side and create a launchpad for their greatest ever performance at a major tournament.

Gareth Bale’s influence, utilising an "underdog mentality" and using a system that got the most out of players like Aaron Ramsey, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen, Coleman defeated Belgium in the quarter-finals of the tournament. They were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners Portugal, but a nation remained proud.

Coleman’s emergence as a leading candidate to return to the Premier League - in particular to his local team Swansea City - stemmed from the fact Wales had not made the most promising start to their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign and also his rehabilitation as a manager.

He has put behind him past difficulties learned at different levels of the game and showed fearlessness to take on challenges in Greece and Spain. A manager who's reputation appeared to be damaged, showed the courage and guile his Welsh side did at Euro 2016 to rebuild his reputation on the global stage.


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