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Roker Roundtable: An encouraging start! Analysing Tony Mowbray’s impact at Sunderland

With two wins, a draw, and a single loss, Mowbray has kicked off his reign at Sunderland in positive fashion. We asked our panel for their thoughts on how his tenure has started

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris Camm says…

Before Mowbray arrived at Sunderland, we were a club completely united, the fans were loving life in the Championship, and there was a squad of players who seemed to love playing in red and white, as well as for each other.

The sudden departure of Alex Neil was a betrayal of the fans, and I fully expected the players and staff to have been shocked and hurt by his decision, but they deserve immense credit for their response since then.

In theory, the new head coach should’ve been able to step in and continue the success. A lesser man might have arrived, attempted to reinvent the wheel, and ruined the good thing we had going.

That said, I still believe that Mowbray has made a very good start that should inspire confidence from his players and the fans alike, and he deserves credit for that.

The way he has managed to do that is through some very smart, common sense decisions.

Firstly, he stuck with the winning formula of three (or five if you prefer) at the back with the two strikers up front. Simple enough, and he was rewarded with that stonking 3-0 win over Rotherham. Since then, however, he’s been met with some significant challenges.

The loss of Ross Stewart before the Middlesbrough game led to our worst performance of the season, but my main concern was what we would do next. If Mowbray had fielded the same side that started at the Riverside, it would have been a huge disappointment as it was clear for all to see that it wasn’t going to work without Stewart up top.

What he did instead was change the shape and adapt the team to bring out the strengths of its personnel. It was probably obvious management, but how many times over the years have we seemed incapable of that?

When Ellis Simms when down in the first half against Reading, Mowbray made the adjustment, playing Alex Pritchard as a ‘false nine’, and again the players were superb. His man management of Patrick Roberts seemed to be spot on and hearing that the false nine system was practiced beforehand, just in case we lost our second striker, was music to my ears.

It appears that in Mowbray, we have a head coach who knows how to get the best out of his team. It is of course early days, but the players deserve so much praise for the way they’ve performed, and it certainly bodes well for the future.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

To be perfectly honest, I was a little dubious when Tony Mowbray was appointed.

It wasn’t because of his managerial ability, but because I remembered Mowbray as a Middlesborough player and his past encounters with Sunderland as a manager, notably with West Brom when they went head-to-head for promotion against Roy Keane’s team.

From those meetings, my impression was that he didn’t really like Sunderland, but this was the only apprehension I had- after all, we have a statue of a former Newcastle player outside the stadium!

It is early days, and he has only been in the dugout for four games, but he has inherited a squad with good potential that he hasn’t tinkered with, keeping the shape and personnel of the team the same.

The players look like they have bought into him, he has been rewarded with two big wins, and he came up with a stunning reorganisation midway through the first half at Reading. The only defeat was a narrow one, and that came after we lost Ross Stewart right before kickoff, forcing a change of style with no preparation time at all.

I’d be surprised if Sunderland are promoted this season, but Mowbray looks like he can get the maximum out of this squad.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I think that Mowbray has done a good job in his first clutch of games, but I’m not getting carried away because, in my view, it’s too soon to say what’s been down to him.

Yes, a couple of times he has made substitutions that have made a real difference but sometimes that has been forced on him. The squad was provided by Kristjaan Speakman and the recruitment team, and to an extent, Mowbray is using what he has and hoping it works.

That allocates more credit to the recruitment guys and the players than Mowbray. He can only work with what he has so he does get some kudos, but it isn’t all about him.

At this stage of his tenure, he is probably reliant on the wider first team coaching groups and their input on strengths and weaknesses of the squad. That is exactly what he should do, and he deserves recognition for taking that approach rather than coming in and changing something that wasn’t broken. A good leader uses all of the resources around him, and on that point he has done very well.

For me, the thing that has made the biggest difference is the attitude and application of the players themselves.

They could have gone into a huge huff when Alex Neil left the club, but instead they have thrown themselves into the games and the tough situation we have been through. They are applying the tactics and strategy perfectly, and should arguably have more points on the board than they currently have.

If Mowbray can add to what this squad of good lads already has, as well as their strong team spirit, I’ll be a very happy lad.

It’s a bit soon to get too excited, but the signs are good and let’s hope that continues!


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