RR: So... Alan Nixon of the Sun reported this weekend that Sunderland are interested in taking John Buckley from Blackburn when the transfer window opens in a few weeks. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, can you just give us your initial thoughts and feelings on that particular bit of news?
RC: Shocked to say the least. Buckley has been out of favour with Jon Dahl Tomasson which we’ll come to soon, but he’s recently find himself back in the matchday squad and given the current midfield pairing isn’t working, I’m expecting him to be back in the side in the coming weeks.
The interest doesn’t shock me given Tony Mowbray’s time here, but it does feel like an easy to link to make when Mowbray has managed him before and game time has been tough to come by.
RR: Is he any good then?
RC: Buckley is a real talent. Although he has struggled for game time this season, there is still a very talented player in there that is more than capable of performing at this level, with over 100 appearances at this level.
The fact that Rovers fans will be very frustrated if Buckley heads out on loan should be a big indication of his talent and how loved he is here.
RR: Tony Mowbray has been described as a ‘big fan’ of Buckley. Would you say that’s accurate? What can you tell us about their relationship?
RC: Before Jon Dahl Tomasson, Buckley had only ever worked with Tony Mowbray in a professional environment.
Mowbray was part of the team that gave Buckley his first professional contract, handed him his debut and made him a key part of the team over the last two seasons or so.
Tony also had a good reputation for bringing through young players and Buckley was most definitely one of the success stories.
RR: Sunderland fans would probably agree that we’re a little bit lightweight in terms of midfield options. What sort of midfielder is Buckley?
RC: He played alongside a more defensive midfielder (Lewis Travis) in our team, so Buckley was given the role of being the passer and getting the ball forward.
His passing range is a real strength, and despite his small frame, he is still able to shield the ball off players. He’s been previously criticised for being ‘lightweight’, but he’s definitely grown into the role and his frame doesn’t really matter.
I could see him working really well with Corry Evans, who he played with here.
RR: Why do you think Buckley has struggled to get game time this season under your new manager?
RC: It’s a tough one, and one I’m unsure of. Tyler Morton came on loan from Liverpool so we’ve got to give him game time as part of the agreement. Add into the fact that our other midfielder is our captain, and I can see why game time was limited from that point.
We’ve also had some young talent impress and get runs in the side so that would make sense.
However, it doesn’t make too much sense given we’ve been poor on nine or ten occasions this season, so changes have been needed, yet Buckley hasn’t had too much of a chance.
RR: Nixon said that it was a loan deal we were interested in - does that make sense? Do you feel he still has a future with Blackburn?
RC: It would make sense if any move was to happen as he has way too much talent for us to offload him, unless some side came in with a large bid.
I really can’t see it happening, and I really hope I’m right.
RR: Nixon also said Mowbray has an interest in Bradley Dack. What’s his situation currently? I know he had a lot of momentum a number of years ago but was derailed by injury…
RC: He’s another player who has struggled for game time this season. He had his first ACL injury in December 2019 on his right knee, and then he did the same to his left knee in March 2021, so it’s been a really tough few years for Dack.
He doesn’t fit into the Tomasson system as much as some of the other players, and ultimately that has been why he has struggled for game time.
RR: What sort of player is Dack? Where does he fit into that traditional Mowbray system?
RC: His best role by far is in the number 10 role, linking up with a striker. Our excellent League One season and the decent first season back in the Championship was largely down to his link up with Danny Graham (a name you lot will love to hear).
He likes to pick the ball up deep and get forward with it, and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, as we saw with his goal against Preston at the weekend.
RR: Why do you think he was so successful under Mowbray?
RC: We focused play on a system that suited him so well, the 4-2-3-1, and that’s why he did so well. He was given an excellent partner that helped him do what he wanted to do and it was massive.
He struggled, like the rest of the team did, early on in League One but we found a way to play and he was the talisman in that side.
There’s still that player there in the right setup.
RR: Would you be sad to see either of them go?
RC: Yes, but in different ways.
With Buckley, I’d be sad because he should be in this side and be given the chance to make an impact on the team. He’s not had a fair run and is too talented to be given to anyone else.
Bradley Dack’s situation is different for me. He needs to be playing at his age and deserves more than being a bit part player. I feel it’s right for him to move on if he’s not going to get a chance, but I’ll miss him because of all the memories that he’s given us/
I dread to think where we’d have ended up if Mowbray hadn’t have brought in Dack…
RR: For any Sunderland fans not sure about these two players and the potential of them coming up to the north east, what would you say to them?
RC: For Buckley, I’d say you’re getting a player that could make the difference in where you finish this season. He really is a special talent.
In terms of Dack, I’d say if any manager has a philosophy or a playing style that suits Bradley, it’s Tony Mowbray.
Mowbray knows both of them well and trusts them, so I’d trust his judgment here.