Chris Coleman's '˜intense' methods are reaping rewards at Sunderland, says on-loan defender
With more than 900 career appearances for club and country between them, Sunderland's new management team know a thing or two about defending.
Former defenders Chris Coleman and Kit Symons both had distinguished careers turning out for the likes of Crystal Palace, Fulham and Wales.
Coleman and his No.2 have been working the players hard on the training pitches at the Academy of Light since taking charge – with the focus on improving a defence that was shipping on average two goals a game before they arrived.
And their methods are reaping rewards with three clean sheets from their opening five games.
Not bad considering Sunderland had gone 19 games without a shutout before former Wales boss Coleman replaced Simon Grayson in the dugout.
And Everton loanee Tyias Browning is relishing life under Coleman and his demanding methods.
“The gaffer and Kit are both very intense when it comes to the defensive work, they are both very hands on,” said Browning, who has played every minute under Coleman.
“I enjoy doing the defensive work, all the lads do.
“It is tough but enjoyable and more so when you get a clean sheet on a Saturday.
“You can’t argue with it then. The lack of clean sheets hurt us as defenders, it was a relief when we got the first one.”
That came in the 2-0 win over Burton Albion and was quickly followed by an excellent point at Wolves and then the 1-0 win over Fulham at the Stadium of Light, the home hoodoo finally broken.
Sunderland have played three centre backs in recent weeks with John O’Shea, Marc Wilson and Browning forming the back three.
Coleman unveiled his new system for the trip to Molineux and it has proved an instant success with back-to-back clean sheets, with Adam Matthews and Donald Love impressing at wing-back.
“I am enjoying the new system,” added the 23-year-old Scouser, also comfortable at right-back.
“This gaffer has worked on a lot of defensive stuff and it is paying off. We have tried a few things and we have done a lot of three at the back.
“We have worked on it a lot in our sessions, that has been the main focus and it is showing.
“I do prefer centre-half. My goal was to play as a centre-half when I went out on loan.
“I just thought the gaffer was going to use three at the back for certain games but I know he’s used it for Wales and we’ve worked on it a lot in training.
“Defensively that was the main thing we worked on so I could see him using it going forward but we’re all good enough players to switch and play as a four as well.
“It’s been refreshing, a few changes and the team is benefiting from it.”
Browning was signed on a season-long loan deal by Grayson, the pair having worked together at Preston North End last season.
The former Everton trainee admits he was sad it didn’t work out for his former boss on Wearside.
“No two managers will be the same,” he added.
“It was unfortunate it didn’t work out for Simon Grayson because he was a good guy.”