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Talking Points: Beating Birmingham was Sunderland’s biggest win of the season for Tony Mowbray!

Following Sunderland’s 2-1 victory over Birmingham, Matty discusses the importance of the result, Amad’s brilliance, as well as the return of Niall Huggins!

Photo by John Early/Getty Images

Winning ahead of the three-week break was absolutely crucial to ease the pressure off Tony Mowbray - was it our biggest win of the season?

Friday night was an unexpected victory, but also one that for me was the most important of the season given the context around it.

The mood amongst Sunderland fans was grim after our home defeat to Cardiff, with a section of the fanbase beginning to question Mowbray and it seemed as though everything was going against us with our never-ending injury list.

With Luke O’Nien suspended and the news emerging of Dennis Cirkin’s injury, Trai Hume started only his second match and Niall Huggins started his first game in over a YEAR.

Having seen that teamsheet and given Birmingham’s form, I would have snapped your hand off for a point, but credit to the lads for going one better and clinching all three.

Mowbray brought experience back into the side with Corry Evans and Alex Pritchard and tactically the lads were spot on.

They dealt with what was a very physical side with an in-form striker in Scott Hogan and we saw some fantastic individual performances from the likes of Amad, Anthony Patterson, and Danny Batth.

Following Saturday’s matches, we now sit 15th in the table, four points away from the relegation zone, and I think with a three-week break ahead the mood will be far more relaxed amongst both the squad and the fanbase.

The break will provide a much-needed rest for the players who have played every game, but also it will be absolutely crucial to have the likes of Ross Stewart, Aje Alese, and Dan Ballard back to bring back both goals and aerial balance to the side.

In addition to that trio, Lynden Gooch, Dennis Cirkin, and Édouard Michut will also return, which should hopefully give the manager a clear selection choice for the first time since taking. over.

Rather than having to take academy lads down as subs, Mowbray will soon have difficult decisions to make over leaving first-team players out of the squad, and hopefully, this should be the end of playing players out of position.

Had Sunderland lost yesterday, we would have sat anxiously just one point above the relegation spots, which is exactly why I think it was our biggest win of the season so far.

Now we enter the break with a smile on our faces knowing that the lads have managed to get through what you would imagine to be our most difficult segment of the season.

With a fully fit squad and our best player back, we can start to see what the manager and this group of players are actually capable of.

We are starting to see the real Amad and what a player he looks to be!

I always felt during his cameo appearances at the beginning of the season that there was a player in Amad and now that he seems to have settled, he is certainly showing us!

Wherever he went on loan, Amad would always have the £20m-£35m price tag on his shoulders and as we have seen with some of the other expensive midfielders we have, when they are given time to settle, they will start to produce top-quality performances.

Having started the last five consecutive matches, the 20-year-old has found the net three times as his confidence has grown, but yesterday our two goals came from him oozing class.

For our opening goal, his desire and tenacity shone through, as despite being surrounded by four players, he still managed to protect the ball and find a pass for Simms to fire home.

Competing with the likes of Alex Pritchard, Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke, and Elliot Embleton, Mowbray will be looking for these players to start producing goals and assists regularly to keep their places.

Moving into the second half, Amad clinched three points with what was simply a magnificent goal.

The pace, the sharp shift, combined with what was a ridiculous finish - it was a marvelous watch and the type of quality that Speakman and Co believed they could bring out of him at Sunderland.

The big test for Amad now is consistency. Can he take his recent form and continue to deliver those types of big moments to win Sunderland points?

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Amad scored and assisted in the same match for the first time since joining Sunderland.
Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

In Trai Hume and Niall Huggins, Sunderland have two excellent prospects at full-back!

I think most Sunderland fans were worried about seeing an inexperienced Hume/Huggins combination at full-back, but how they both proved to everyone that they’re up to battle for a place in the team.

Excluding pre-season, Sunderland fans have rarely got to see Hume in action since he joined last January.

He was sparingly used by Alex Neil who opted mainly for experience last season and given Lynden Gooch’s steady form, opportunities for others have been limited.

I think the Northern Irishman has always been a steady performer who whilst doesn’t stand out, doesn’t do much wrong either.

His late goal-line clearance was excellent, and I do think it will be interesting to see whether Mowbray feels he can challenge Gooch or whether a loan for regular minutes on the pitch may be more beneficial to his progress.

Huggins played a steady 90 minutes after not kicking a ball professionally for over a year, and you simply have to credit his effort and determination.

Excluding his yellow card and a few anxious moments trying to dribble, many Sunderland fans were reminded of a player who actually started his career on Wearside very well, but who fell massively unlucky to injuries.

As he is capable of playing both right-back and left-back, Huggins’ flexibility will be crucial as he builds back up his fitness and challenges for a first-team spot.

The Welshman is a pacey full-back who loves to get forward and will act as a new signing for Mowbray given that the club for so long has been without options and cover across both full-back positions.

Huggins featured regularly on the bench for Leeds during their return season to the Premier League, so it is a welcomed enigma to see just how good he can be in a red and white shirt this season.


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