RR: Tony Mowbray is the new Sunderland gaffer, then. What do you think about that?
I’ll be honest, it’s a place I didn’t expect him to end up this season, although you’ll know much more about the bizarre few weeks with Alex Neil than I will.
It’s a perfect move for Tony. One of the things he mentioned on his departure from here is that he wanted to be closer to family, and how spending a lot of time down here took its toll as his children grew up.
I expected Sunderland to go into the League One managerial market and pick out a good boss from there, like Liam Manning who was linked.
RR: How do Blackburn fans look back at his time in charge?
I think the right answer is with mixed thoughts.
He took over the club at a bad time, when we were on the brink of relegation to League One and although he couldn’t help us avoid that, he gave us some renewed optimism in a time when it was much needed.
He then got us back up at the first attempt, which Sunderland fans will know is not as easy as it sounds, and he stabilised us into a solid Championship side.
The factor that lessens the positive thoughts about his time here is the fact we couldn’t push on from being that solid Championship side.
We spent quite a bit of money (for the financial state we were in, any way) and we flirted with the playoffs, but come January/February time, we fell out a few years in a row and it became predictable heading into the last season.
We’ll forever be grateful for how he helped the club get back to a stable level, but the major drop off post-Christmas will also remain in people’s memories.
RR: He managed Rovers for five years and, in fairness, the progress was steady - leaving the club last year after a 7th place finish. Good job done, or was it tinged with some disappointment that he wasn’t able to push further on?
As I said, from the position he took over, he did a good job but we could never make the step up that we, and the board, wanted.
We stuck by him in some pretty terrible runs of form, and he would eventually turn it around, but by then any play-off hopes had long gone.
He did a good job, but the disappointment remains that we fell off each year following the New Year.
RR: What about Mowbray the man - what’s he like as a person?
From my experiences of dealing with him, a real genuine, honest person who cares about the club he manages.
I was lucky enough to chat to him a few times and he’d always make time to stop and discuss the team with you, honestly as well.
As a person, I truly cannot fault Tony. I really do hope he does well with you.
RR: What’s his style of football like to watch?
He kept leaning towards a possession-based game, but it didn’t work on a few occasions.
We tried it in League One and it really didn’t work so we resorted to lumping it up to Danny Graham and letting the players play off him.
We did it again in the Championship and it just didn’t work, so we ended up counter-attacking teams.
He’ll need time to get the players he wants for his tactics, but I couldn’t tell you how he’ll set up because he did a few different ones here.
RR: There’s a lot been made of the Sunderland model and how the ‘Head Coach’ fits into that. How do you see him fitting in to a system where there’s heavy emphasis placed on developing young players and working under a Sporting Director (and with Head of Recruitment Stuart Harvey, who he worked with at Blackburn)?
As you say, he worked with Stuart Harvey here and that worked with quite a few additions, although we had some poor decisions - as every club does though in the market.
He was good at bringing youth talents through here. John Buckley came through under his management and he’s a key player now, as are Scott Wharton, Lewis Travis and Darragh Lenihan, all of whom blossomed under Tony.
RR: Why do you think that Blackburn under Mowbray managed to get so many talented youngsters from top Premier League clubs on loan - why did they trust him to look after these lads?
I think the clubs know he’ll build them up as a player, and that he had experience of doing it with youngsters at Coventry - he had the likes of James Maddison, Adam Armstrong and Ryan Kent on loan, all of whom massively improved under him.
He did the same here. We’ve had so many talents that he’s helped, including Harvey Elliott (first team at Liverpool now), Tosin Adarabioyo (highly rated first teamer at Fulham), Jan Paul van Hecke (who we both know about), Taylor Harwood-Bellis (now at Burnley) and many more.
Mowbray will help you bring players in - although it won’t help that his mate Dan Ashworth who he got some loans off from Brighton is now at Newcastle!
RR: Do you think he’ll be a success at Sunderland?
If he is given the time and financial backing to get in the players he needs and wants, I think he will make you a solid Championship club.
He hasn’t done anything at our club to suggest he’ll get you back to the top flight, but that might not be what fans are expecting.
Patience is required, because I don’t see him having an instant impact.
RR: What would you say to the Sunderland fans who aren’t particularly inspired by this appointment?
Give Tony time, let him build the club up, and let him get a rapport with the fans.
He’s probably not the man to take you back to the top flight, but he’ll bring you pride in the team and will establish you back in the second tier.