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Let's Take Stock Of What We've Really Lost

This pre-season has been turbulent to say the least, but amongst the ins and outs at Sunderland we have been able to retain the services of one of the most underrated coaches in the Premier League.

Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

As Big Sam smiled away on camera saying how excited he was at the challenge of managing England, Twitter was awash with fan heartbreak at losing the man who would stabilise us, and understandably so.

The turnaround in fortunes under Allardyce last season wasn’t like the ones we had with Advocaat and Di Canio, band aids for bullet wounds effectively. It was methodical. The improvement of Patrick Van Aanholt alone was testament to that.

But, underneath all of the chatter regarding Big Sam and losing our hero, one name kept cropping up. Robbie Stockdale.

Our first team coach has had quite the journey since he joined the club in 2013 from Grimsby as Kevin Ball's assistant. In just about every article I have read about Sam’s nine months at Sunderland, his name crept up in it, so I decided to look back into Stockdale’s history at the club. Admittedly, despite his impressive rise, I feel like too few of us know about the former ‘Boro defender.

When Kevin Ball was forced to take a less hands-on role at the club due to injuries accumulated over many years as a player, it was Stockdale who stepped into the shoes of Mr Sunderland at the beginning of the 2014/2015 season.

After an impressive season for the U21s under Stockdale's stewardship, the like of Duncan Watmore, Jordan Pickford and latterly Lynden Gooch all made their way regularly into first-team matchday squads and, despite losing some of his better players, Stockdale continued to progress Sunderland's young side.

When Dick Advocaat left a tired looking and badly managed Sunderland side in October 2015, it was Stockdale who would step up, along side Paul Bracewell, to take first-team training until we waited for Sam Allardyce to arrive.

Interestingly, due to the fact that Sam is infamous for completely restructuring the back room team at every club he has managed, the manager kept on Stockdale as a first team coach - it should come as no surprise that Sunderland's clean sheet record improved tremendously as the season progressed under the tutelage of two former defenders.

I spotted an article this weekend that told of Sunderland's players discussing the appointment of Moyes in their infamous 'Whatsapp group chat', noting that they were fairly optimistic about going forward under the former Everton gaffer.

Stockdale, despite going largely unnoticed by the wider media, is building quite the reputation for himself as a coach. One important note was that the article claimed the players felt it was essential that he stays on as part of David Moyes' backroom team - that is some statement.

When a coach has the respect of his players you would hazard that it positively impacts performance both on the training pitch and in matches. He becomes not only a mentor, but a friend, and when the pressure is on David Moyes it will be useful to have a man by his side that can relate to their staff in order to reach a resolution and improve.

Our new manager would be daft to not use a tool that, very handily, is right at his disposal.

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