CHRIS COLEMAN admits he is having to tailor his Sunderland side’s playing style to the constraints of having so many senior players unavailable because of injury.

Since taking over at the Stadium of Light last month, Coleman has been unable to call on a number of his more experienced squad members. The likes of Lamine Kone, Billy Jones, Bryan Oviedo, Jonny Williams and Paddy McNair remain on the sidelines, while Didier Ndong is still easing his way back to full fitness after a lengthy lay-off.

Coleman admits he arrived on Wearside with pre-conceived ideas about how he wanted his Sunderland team to play, but circumstances have meant he has had to adopt a slightly different approach.

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That approach has proved effective, with Sunderland having beaten both Burton Albion and Fulham on his watch, while keeping three clean sheets in their last four games.

While Coleman might not have envisaged playing with three centre-halves when he first moved to the North-East, the switch has proved extremely effective, and there is every chance the formation will remain in place even when the likes of Jones and Kone are fit.

However, Coleman remains keen to make some slight modifications to Sunderland’s playing style in the second half of the season, with a more expansive approach likely if confidence continues to rise and some alternative attacking players become available. Williams’ return will be welcome, and Coleman is also determined to sign at least one centre-forward during next month’s transfer window.

“Sometimes, as a manager or a coach, you can know how you want to play, but you can’t do that because you haven’t got the personnel,” said the Sunderland boss, who will lead his side into action against the Championship’s bottom club, Birmingham City, this weekend.

“So you have to look at what’s best for the group you’ve got. I know exactly how I want to play – I know a style and a formation that will be good for us eventually – but I’m not so sure we can do that right now. We can show glimpses of it.

“In the time we’ve been here, we’ve scored in all the games bar Wolves. The Wolves game was a bit different in how we played. But our medical team are so busy, we’ve had so many players unavailable.”

Saturday’s game offers an opportunity to record back-to-back league wins for the first time since David Moyes’ team beat Bournemouth and Hull City either side of the November international break last season.

Birmingham travel to Wearside having picked up just two points from their 11 away matches so far this term, and with Sunderland having ended a year-long wait for a home win with a victory over Fulham last weekend, confidence in the home camp is as high as it has been all campaign.

Another home success could see the Black Cats open up a four-point gap to the relegation zone, and while festive trips to Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest will provide tough tests, Coleman is hoping to head into the New Year with a spring in his step.

He expects January to be a crucial month, both in terms of transfer activity and the anticipated return of a number of players currently on the sidelines.

“January will be an important month for us in terms of working out who we actually have got,” said Coleman. “More of the players that are out now will be fit, and then it will be a case of seeing if we can add to what we’ve got.

“January’s going to be a big, big month. We’ll have one or two back from injury at the start, and we’ll know if we’re going to lose any in the first week or so. Can we replace and bring people in? I think the whole of January will be a big month.”