Chris Coleman has a long-term vision for his Sunderland side, the style of play and identity he wants to set down in stone.
But the Black Cats boss insists the short-term priority simply has to be getting Sunderland away from relegation danger.
Sunderland prop up the Championship following Birmingham City’s win at Reading.
It makes for grim reading for everyone associated with Sunderland but despite the dismal New Year’s Day defeat to Barnsley there have been clear signs of improvement under Coleman.
One factor hindering Coleman is the crippling injury list, with Sunderland without eight first-team players. It has meant the former Wales boss having to constantly chop and change his side since taking over from Simon Grayson.
The league table may make for depressing reading but Sunderland are only two points from safety and four off Barnsley in 19th.
Sunderland’s form has improved under Coleman with three wins and two draws from his opening nine games but it has coincided with a shot in the arm for their relegation rivals.
Birmingham have won their last two to leapfrog Sunderland, while Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion have both won three of their last five.
The festive results has at least dragged several other sides into the relegation dogfight with Hull City now fourth bottom and Reading, QPR and Sheffield Wednesday all slipping closer to the drop zone than they were before Christmas.
Long-term Coleman has a clear vision. Shortterm, he knows Championship survival is all that matters.
“I know where we need to improve,” said Coleman.
“I have a plan going forward of how I see us but at the same time we have this core of players who are playing week in, week out. I have to get the best out of them.
“I don’t know who will be where in six or 12 months, that’s football.
“I have a plan of how I see this team playing and the identity.
“But I have to concentrate on what we have now, I have something in my head of how I would like to go with but can’t at the moment because we don’t have the personnel physically fit.
“We are chopping and changing a lot.
“We have stuck with a formation that has served us well, didn’t work so well at Sheffield United but I think that was more to do with mentality.
“If we are consistent in our performances in the way we were against Sheffield United then that will be bad news for everybody.
“Long-term I know how I see it but the most important thing is short term and making the best of what we have got and making sure it is a strong platform we have to build on, rather than in six months time thinking ‘wow, it is even worse.’
“You can’t take your eye off the immediate challenge of getting away from where we are.”