herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Chris has his cross to bear

Life after Euro 2016 has been another struggle for Wales boss Coleman

Wales manager Chris Coleman, whose father Paddy was born in Dublin, is under huge pressure to get a win over Ireland tomorrow night.
Wales manager Chris Coleman, whose father Paddy was born in Dublin, is under huge pressure to get a win over Ireland tomorrow night.

Bob Geldof likes to tell the story of what happened just after the curtain had come down on Live Aid, the biggest charity event in history, as a kid approached him and asked "Is that it?".

Perhaps Chris Coleman has felt like that in the weeks and months since last June, when he led his Wales side to the last four of the European Championships. Is that all there is, and is that as good as it gets?

Coleman could have a very different outlook on his life in football by 9.35pm tomorrow night, when Nicola Rizzoli blows the final whistle on the qualifier in Dublin.

A win for Wales and they are right back in the race for Russia 2018 and a chance to show that their summer in France last year was not a one-off.

A Welsh defeat and he's faced with the rather grim prospect of his side being truly finished off unless they win their next game, in Serbia in June - and Coleman knows all too well that games in Serbia mean a whole world of pain for Wales - but more of that later.

Chris Coleman pictured with his wife, the Sky Sports News presenter Charlotte Jackson.
Chris Coleman pictured with his wife, the Sky Sports News presenter Charlotte Jackson.

Still only 46, Coleman will no doubt think about club management: he has been linked with jobs since that Welsh success in the summer, but the prospect of relegation battles with Swansea or Hull didn't fill Coleman - who previously managed club sides in Spain and Greece - with enthusiasm.

There was also the bizarre scene late last year when when it seems Coleman backed away from the chance to manage his hometown club Swansea because he'd promised his wife, glamorous TV presenter Charlotte Coleman (née Jackson) that their next move would be "abroad".

In a nod to the modern era, a world away from his early playing career, on meagre wages at Swansea where he needed a loan from his father-in-law to buy a TV, his wife tweeted that nugget of information to her 290,000 twitter followers: "My husband has said publically [sic] after Wales we would hopefully move abroad - but good luck to Swansea".

Premier League management can offer someone the level of income that's beyond the purse strings of the Welsh FA and Coleman could triple his salary with Wales (said to be £500,000 a year) even at a lower-half Premier League club.

Coleman is on record as saying he'd like like to coach abroad again "because I think that's my best chance of managing in Champions League football".

But Coleman, still a national hero in Wales despite that sluggish start to this campaign which has left them needing a result in Dublin tomorrow, will surely look around and consider recent football history to stress that the grass is not always greener.

Next month is the 10th anniversary of Coleman's dismissal as Fulham manager. His successor there was Lawrie Sanchez, who had left Northern Ireland after a decent spell with them, had a disaster at Fulham and barely worked since. Careful what you wish for is the motto there.

Coleman's private life has also come under the spotlight. He separated from his first wife and married TV presenter Charlotte Jackson in 2015, and that affair was one of the showbiz yarns of the year in Wales, a story born in the brain of a scriptwriter for Dream Team.

Coleman and Jackson met in 2012, at that staple event for ex-footballers and TV stars: a celebrity golf tournament in Portugal, where they first met as Charlotte interviewed Coleman.

But the tabloids in Wales had a field day with the aftermath, kiss-and-tell stories on one side, an OK magazine exclusive on the other and Coleman's new family (two kids) are page candy for the glossy mags.

If his personal life became a battle played out in the public eye - and the Welsh public were told a lot by his ex-wife about what went on behind closed doors - Coleman's work with Wales pre-Euro 2016 was a trial at times. A lot of times.

It was a tough gig from the start, as Coleman took over a squad emotionally battered by the shocking and sudden death of his predecessor and close pal, Gary Speed.

Picking just one low point from Coleman's early days in charge of Wales is not easy.

Losing his first five games in a row; a dismal crowd of 6,253 paying in to see his Welsh team lose at home to Bosnia (2012); or an awful 6-1 loss away to Serbia in the Euro qualifiers only a month later; the embarrassment of having to travel to Macedonia on his own for a qualifier (2013) as he'd lost his passport and missed the team flight; and needing two goals from Gareth Bale to help the side come from behind and sneak a 2-1 win away to Andorra (2014).

Life's been good, life's also been hard and big battles remain in the path of Chris Coleman, starting in the home town of his late father tomorrow night.

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