WHEN news of Chris Coleman’s departure broke on Friday night I was reminded of the favourite saying of one of his predecessors as Wales manager.

Hardly a press conference went by without John Toshack sagely noting, usually with a chuckle: “The only thing that surprises me in football is that people are surprised!”

It’s not a big shock that Coleman has decided to move on, as he said he would after the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, but his choice of destination has led many observers to raise a quizzical eyebrow or two.

When I saw his name linked with Championship basement boys and permanent crisis club Sunderland on Thursday I dismissed the idea.

I’d have thought it more likely that Coleman would end up heading Down Under for I’m a Celebrity.

And, given Sunderland’s recent track record, he might have lasted longer in the jungle than most bosses do at the Stadium of Light.

Hopefully he can buck the trend and help the Black Cats claw their way to safety before guiding them back to the Premier League.

He’s certainly shown over the past five-and-a-half years that he is a hugely talented manager and, after all that he has achieved with Wales, nobody should begrudge him the chance to return to the club game.

Coleman is also right when he says that Sunderland is a big club with a sizeable fan-base and one that is at a low ebb.

But one look at the Championship table will tell you that the assertion that ‘the only way is up’ is simply not true.

For Coleman’s sake, you have to hope that the North East giants have indeed hit rock bottom and that he can bring the good times back for their long-suffering fans.

He certainly did that for Wales supporters and he leaves his post as the most successful national manager we’ve ever had.

South Wales Argus:

Just six weeks ago in this column I was urging the Football Association to do everything they could to keep hold of Coleman.

The whole squad echoed those sentiments and the Wales fans made their feelings clear as they chanted their support for Coleman during last week’s friendly draw with Panama.

But there appears to have been some distance between what Coleman wanted and what the FAW was prepared to offer.

“Wales was a great pleasure. It's the biggest honour I've ever had, to lead my country,” Coleman told reporters as he was unveiled in Sunderland yesterday.

“But once it was apparent that myself and the powers that be at Wales had different ideas, I felt it was time to move.

“I didn't think I would be the right man to take it forward in the direction I wanted to.”

It is a disappointing way for a beautiful relationship to end but, as much as most of us would have loved them to stay together for the kids, it may be that a clean break is best for both parties.

Coleman has a second chance to prove himself as a club manager and Wales will get a fresh coach with new ideas and a different approach.

The last campaign always felt a little like it was played out in the fog of a massive hangover from Euro 2016 and, as magical as that tournament was for Wales, we all need to move on and look to the future.

Coleman was starting to do that by introducing exciting young talents like Tom Lawrence, Ben Woodburn, David Brooks, Ethan Ampadu and Newport’s own Lee Evans.

And the new manager, whoever it is, will have a great blend of youth and experience to work with.

Wales don’t have another fixture before the China Cup in March so there is no need to rush into appointing the new man and, despite Coleman’s comments, I don’t believe they should dismiss the idea of an overseas coach.

“I'd like to see another Welshman take over because for some years we've been promoting the Welsh way,” said Coleman yesterday.

“I think it's a little bit hypocritical if we go with a foreign coach.

“I think it has to stay within, we have to believe in the system.

“I can't give you a specific name because I don't know.”

Whoever is appointed it has to be hoped that assistant Osian Roberts will remain to provide some continuity.

And, as the FAW’s technical director, Roberts has helped big names like Thierry Henry, Jens Lehmann, Marcel Desailly, Roberto Martinez, Patrick Vieira and David Ginola complete their coaching badges at Dragon Park in Newport.

They are all steeped in what Coleman calls “the Welsh way” so the FAW should not limit their search to the likes of Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Newport’s Tony Pulis.