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Hebei hoping Coleman can improve fortunes

By Angus Mcneice in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-13 09:00
Chris Coleman (right), former Wales, Sunderland and Fulham coach, has taken over as the new manager of Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune. [Photo/The Club's Website]

Former Wales boss Chris Coleman is the new manager of Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune, the club confirmed on Monday.

Coleman, who led the Welsh national team to the semifinal of the European Championship in 2016, takes the reins from Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini, who left Hebei in May to join English Premier League club West Ham.

The 48-year-old Coleman parted company with Wales in 2017 after it failed to qualify for the World Cup, and took charge of Sunderland in England's second-tier division, the Championship.

Chris Coleman (right), former Wales, Sunderland and Fulham coach, has taken over as the new manager of Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune. Photo From The Club's Website

Having inherited a struggling side, he could not save Sunderland from relegation to League One, and was fired at the end of the season in April on the same day new owners took over the Black Cats.

Hebei is currently 10th in the 16-team Chinese top flight after 11 matches. Coleman's first CSL game in charge will be on July 18 at Dalian Yifang after the league resumes following the midseason break.

"We welcome Mr Coleman's arrival and expect him to bring new ideas to the team and help the team reach its target for this season," the Langfang-based club said in a statement.

The Hebei squad boasts several China internationals including Zhang Chengdong and Jiang Zhipeng as well as four foreign stars: former Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano, ex-Paris Saint-Germain attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi, both of Argentina, former Arsenal striker Gervinho of Cote d'Ivoire, and Brazil midfielder Hernanes.

Hebei achieved its highest ever finish in the Chinese top flight last season when Pellegrini guided it to fourth place, narrowly missing out on qualification for the Asian Champions League.

Coleman's appointment has received a mixed reaction from Chinese fans and pundits.

One social-media user called him a "relegation specialist", while others cited his relative youth and international success as positives.

Several Chinese soccer journalists have speculated if Coleman's move to China is chiefly motivated by money, after English media reported he will earn $4.7 million a year at Hebei - five times the annual salary he was thought to be on at Sunderland.

"The appointment of Chris Coleman is something of a surprise, especially as he has recently presided over the relegation of Sunderland," said Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University.

"In many ways, the appointment makes a lot of sense on both sides. For Hebei, this is the chance to work with a coach who has recently been coaching international stars, such as (Real Madrid's) Gareth Bale.

"With Coleman in charge, Wales played very well at Euro 2016. So, this is a shrewd, potentially constructive move which, if Coleman can re-establish himself at club level, could form the basis for a highly productive partnership."

Coleman, a defender, played for Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers and Fulham, as well as winning 32 caps for Wales, before he was forced to retire at the age of 32 after breaking his leg in a car crash.

At 33 he became the youngest ever Premier League manager when he took over at Fulham in 2003, and remained manager of the west Londoners for three years until he was fired.

He then joined Spanish side Real Sociedad, where he famously turned up late for a news conference after a night out and initially blamed a broken washing machine for his tardiness, before stints at Coventry City in England and Greek side AEL.

Coleman's greatest managerial success came with Wales. The team was ranked 117th by FIFA when he took over in 2012, and by 2015 he had steered the country to its highest ever position of eighth, with a squad including Bale and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey.

Coleman took the team to Euro 2016, Wales' first major tournament since 1958, where the Dragons topped their group and reached the semifinal before losing to eventual champion Portugal.

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