AS he "stares into the abyss" Chris Coleman thinks it would be stupid to look beyond the summer because of the uncertainty hanging over struggling Sunderland on and off the pitch.

Today’s long trip to Bristol City is another outing when the Black Cats are looking for a victory that could see them climb out of the Championship’s relegation zone.

With 16 matches remaining, and the depressing results already recorded this season, time is running out on Coleman’s short term goal of preventing League One football falling on Wearside.

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Sunderland’s plight is heightened by the fact owner Ellis Short would prefer to sell up so was reluctant to pour more of his own money into the club during last month’s transfer window.

And Coleman does not think it is the right time to consider what the future holds given that Sunderland’s efforts have to be all concentrated on avoiding relegation.

“I don’t think anyone can look any further than that (the end of the season), none of us,” said Coleman. “The club’s where it is – the owner wants to sell the club. Will he have by then? I’m not sure. I’m not sure about investment, I don’t know any of that.

“All I know is we’ve got to stay in this league. Once we’ve done that I’ll sit down with Martin (Bain, the chief executive) and say, ‘What is the plan?’ Because at the moment the only plan we’ve got is to stay up.

“I’m just being honest. I really don’t know about next year. All I know is we’ve got to stay up. Once we’ve done that I’ll say, ‘Right, what’s the plan?’ “I don’t think any manager can go forward without a plan for the season so of course I need to know what’s required, what’s available. That’s some way in the future.”

With Sunderland sitting two points shy of safety, and on the back of back-to-back defeats, it seems daft to be even considering what next season might bring – because the goal is staying up.

Coleman said: “At the minute we’re in the bottom three and for Sunderland in the Championship, that’s rock bottom.

“But it’s a psychological barrier you have to break down. If you can do it, though, you can get momentum and you really have got half a chance. I don’t think this is a league where you have to spend 100 million quid to make a dent.

“But if we stay up and we’re serious about making progress, we need to spend money. Hence I don’t know what will happen in the summer. I’m here now, we’re here now and we’ve got to get away from where we are. If we do it, it absolutely can change the fortunes.”

Sunderland head to Ashton Gate today with only one boost on the injury front, with young defender Jake Clarke-Salter available again. Regardless of the team he sends out, Coleman is desperate for a lift.

Since taking over in November the former Wales manager has constantly preached the positive message and that was the case again at the Academy of Light; although he has cut a more forlorn figure in the immediate aftermath of the last two defeats to Birmingham and Ipswich.

Coleman said: “I have (got to fight that negativity) and that’s why I’m here. That’s the only rule - you can’t give up. So we give up and say it’s pointless, this club is going to be relegated, that’s it. Let’s just all go home. It doesn’t even enter my thinking to think like that and it’s not me putting a brave face on it. We can do this.

“If we finish fourth from bottom, so long as we don’t finish in the bottom three (that’s success). What happens after that, I don’t know. All I know is where I am now, where we are and what we all need to do.

“I understand by everybody is as low as a snake’s belly but it’s where we are and we’ve got another opportunity tomorrow to change people’s mood for the better.”

He added: “I’m a human being, I have five minutes but I have to come away from that. We’ve won one in 17, now we’ve won four in 14. It’s an improvement, we just haven’t improved enough because we’ve playing catch-up.

“I just think about what’s possible. It’s not the first time I’ve been staring into an abyss in my career. I’ve had worse than this, personally.

“My career ended early at 30 and I had some really dark moments then, don’t worry about that. If there’s one football manager can say all his experiences have been fantastic and positive, it’s nonsense.

“You get these really bad moments and patches where it’s really tough but I knew it was coming. I’m in it now and I still haven’t changed my feeling that I can affect it.

“I know I can affect it and I think we will affect it. That’s what brings me out of my little dark five minutes. Any manager that says they don’t have that - of course you do, you’re a human being. But that’s fleeting.”