ONE major hurdle overcome, one even bigger one still to negotiate. Chris Coleman removed a monkey from his back when he claimed his first victory as Sunderland boss at Burton Albion last weekend, but he will feel like he has a whole of troop of them still clinging to him as he prepares to tackle his side’s home hoodoo on Saturday.

It is now more than 49 weeks since Sunderland last won a game at the Stadium of Light, a period that encompasses 20 matches, 11 defeats and a host of embarrassing episodes. No club in Football League history has had to wait longer for a home win, and while Coleman has not been responsible for any of the failures, he finds himself having to deal with their fall-out.

David Moyes tried to ignore Sunderland’s miserable home record while he was in charge, Simon Grayson tried to wish it away by nonchalantly insisting that it simply had to change.

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Coleman’s approach is both more positive and more forthright. He would have been looking forward to his first experience of managing the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light anyway, but is even more excited in the wake of last weekend’s win.

Not only can Sunderland finally draw a line under the worst run in English football when Reading visit Wearside in four days’ time, they can also move out of the relegation zone for the first time since mid-September.

Coleman has spent his first week-and-a-half as Sunderland manager telling his players not to be afraid of the challenge that is in front of them. This weekend, more than any other, that will continue to be the message he is keen to convey.

“I’m not going to make a big thing about the Stadium of Light, everybody else does that,” said the Sunderland boss, who has already spoken of the intimidating atmosphere he experienced on Wearside as an opposition player. “I will be saying to the players that this is another game.

“It’s 90 minutes, you’re up against 11 men, everything is the same. We have to put the surroundings out of our mind if we think it is going to turn into a negative.

“It is such a fantastic stadium. Of course it does not belong at the level where it is, but that’s where we are and that’s what we have got.

“All we can do is walk onto the grass, forget everything else, and affect our situation on the grass. Whether we are home or away is all the same to me. It’s just another challenge, and it is one that we must meet.”

When Sunderland last played at the Stadium of Light in a 2-2 draw with Millwall, the club was in a state of flux under the caretaker control of Robbie Stockdale.

Coleman’s appointment, which saw him leave his former position in charge of Wales in order to move to Wearside, lifted the mood considerably, and last weekend’s win at the Pirelli Stadium should ensure there is a rare mood of optimism when Sunderland kick-off on Saturday.

It will be up to the players to ensure that does not dissipate quickly, and with no midweek game to squeeze the schedule, Coleman is determined to leave no stone unturned as he looks to develop a game plan to overcome Reading.

The Black Cats boss was unable to do too much training last week, with his side travelling to Villa Park just two days after his appointment was formally confirmed, so he is looking forward to some intensive sessions in the next couple of days.

He has spent the last five years casting his eye over the international game, but has already done sufficient research on Reading to assess where this weekend’s game could be won or lost.

“It will be good to get some time on the training ground this week,” he said. “We can do more as a group, more tactical work for what is coming against Reading because Reading are not like most Championship teams in the way they play.

“The way they are set up under Jaap Stam is a very Dutch style, very patient football. We have to have a game plan for that, simple as that. How do we go about picking them apart? We have a good week now to work on that on the training pitch.”

Sunderland’s substitutes proved decisive at the weekend, with James Vaughan coming on to score the opener and Joel Asoro setting up a goal for George Honeyman as he made a ten-minute cameo at the end of the game.

Asoro has come off the bench in both of Coleman’s games in charge, and having impressed during pre-season, the 18-year-old Swede could be an increasingly influential performer now he is back to full fitness.

“Joel did well,” said Coleman. “He’s looked very lively, very quick, and he’s going to be needed. They are all going to be needed because we’ve got a few lads on the treatment table who are going to be there for some time and, with respect, they can’t help us at the moment. Whoever you are, if you’re fit, you’re going to be in the frame.”