MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Gutsy Coleman deserved his stroke of luck
11:00am Tuesday 16th October 2012 in Sport
IT WOULD be churlish in the extreme for any Welsh football fan, this one included, not to feel happy for Chris Coleman.
It’s all very well for people like me to put pressure on a manager, but when FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford does the same, as he did hours before Friday’s showdown with Scotland, the heat is well and truly on.
I wrote last week that having been given just a two-year deal and with few if any tangible signs to give cause for optimism, a failure to secure at least three points from the Scotland and Croatia matches should’ve meant the end for Coleman as Wales’ boss.
Arguably an extreme view and definitely a premature sentiment in light of Friday’s victory over Scotland.
Coleman has shut up those of us who were predicting doom and gloom in a contest that will be remembered as one of Wales’ most exciting in the past decade.
History hasn’t been kind to Wales against the Tartan Army down the years but a combination of hard work, individual genius and massive fortune via the officials contrived to help Coleman’s men to a priceless victory.
It has been bitterly disappointing to see the progress made under the late Gary Speed amount to so little and the win over Scotland at least arrests a slump and changes the mindset.
We’ve all become accustomed to losing football again and Friday was a glorious reminder of how exciting life can be following the national team.
It was compelling from the off. The Scottish fans were magnificent, drowning out the home supporters and helping their side to an impressive first half.
They defended competently and were shrewder in possession, worthy of their advantage.
Wales failed to truly change the pattern of play after the break but as the rain lashed down they became more desperate and therefore bolder, opening up the game and presenting both goalkeepers plenty of action.
Gareth Bale was untouchable, a class apart and the most dangerous player on the field, but it was Scotland who should’ve added to the scoreline, Steven Fletcher’s effort wrongly ruled out.
Charlie Adam’s cross wasn’t out and there was no offside and the gesticulating and soaking wet Coleman on the touchline had enjoyed a massive slice of luck.
That Wales had the quality and the tenacity to turn the match on its head after Bale won a contentious penalty – just about right is my view but it’s a close call – says much.
And not just what we already know, namely that Bale is a marvel, a genuine legend of Welsh football in the making who will eclipse Ryan Giggs for heart-stopping moments in his career if not in medals.
What was clear on the pitch is that the players are behind Coleman. He has won their appreciation and that’s huge.
Never do I remember players passionately hitting out at criticism of the manager – as they did to the Press afterwards – during John Toshack’s half-a-decade in charge. They did in regard to Coleman and that bodes well.
His attention now turns to Croatia and against a very good side, it’s enough to hope for a performance if not a result.
A point or all three would genuinely claw the prospect of qualification back into the realms of reality after such a poor start. Coleman would be set.
But even if Wales are defeated tonight, I can’t see a change in management.
The players are behind Coleman and seem to have responded well to him doing things “his way” rather than Speed’s way during the past eight days the squad have been together.
Coleman’s never anything but honest and open during interviews – more so than the other four Wales managers I’ve encountered – and his words last Thursday, measured and carefully selected, belied a man who knew the writing was on the wall if Scotland were triumphant.
His ecstasy when Bale crashed home with a minute to go was a picture in the lunacy that goes hand-in-hand with football management.
At half time he was heading for his P45 and then thanks to Bale he’s fist pumping in the rain, like Steve McClaren without the brolly and the misfortune... back from the brink.
Friday was Coleman’s win more than anything and the result buys him the assurance of continuing into 2013 barring a Serbia repeat tonight.
Is he the right man for the foreseeable future? Only time will tell, but he is the right man for right now.
The players are behind him and on the evidence of Friday the luck is with him too.
Things are finally looking up for Chris Coleman.