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Fan Letters: “Tony Mowbray’s in-game management hasn’t been as impressive recently”

Thoughts on Mowbray’s use of substitutes, reaction to the defeat at Leicester, and stories of meeting footballers in unusual situations are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Has Tony Mowbray lost a bit of confidence? I’ve been a bit concerned about the gaffer’s in-game strategy of late.

Last season, I was really impressed with how Mowbray made substitutions and changed tactics in games, often making bold decisions that led to us getting more out of games than we often deserved, as we became famous for late equalisers and winners.

I thought this came from his willingness to be bold and exploit areas of weakness identified in the opposition.

I loved seeing Patrick Roberts or Alex Pritchard come on and create ridiculous overloads on the right or left respectively, and we’d often play with a winger, wing back, attacking midfielder and one of the central midfielders all down one side, which was was decisive and effective.

This season however, we rarely make substitutions before the hour mark. They’re often simply like-for-like swaps and there’s no plan once they’re on the pitch.

I’m writing this after the loss to Leicester, having watched Dennis Cirkin and Abdoullah Ba get subbed on to great effect, only to watch the ball get raked out to the hard working but ultimately ineffective Patrick Roberts for the last fifteen minutes.

Jack Clarke got lumped up front and we continued with the same strategy that hasn’t been successful in the last three games.

I know we’ve had some serious injury problems in specific positions but Mowbray seems really limited this with his in-game management. Do you agree?

Jay Hughes

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Jay. Thank you for your letter.

I do agree that some of Mowbray’s in-game decisions this season have been slightly strange, and this was summed up when he brought a clearly unfit Bradley Dack into the fray as we tried to salvage the game against Stoke last Saturday.

I also think he could be more proactive when it’s obvious that changes need to be made, and I also feel he needs to trust his substitutes more when it comes to influencing games. They need to be sent on with clear instructions and given the best chance of affecting things.

Against Middlesbrough, for example, Mowbray seemed to lose his composure in the second half, and as a result, the changes became scattergun and we completely lost our shape.

We can generally call on some real quality from the bench, and it’s just a matter of Mowbray knowing exactly when to pull the trigger, or maybe being slightly ahead of the curve if possible.

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

Dear Roker Report,

When is Tony Mowbray going to come to his senses and play with eleven men instead of ten and a dummy in the first half of games?

All the fans are sick of seeing Mason Burstow start, because it’s been ten matches and he’s had one shot on goal.

I think we played a better second half against Leicester but we’re now heading down instead of up where we should be, and this is down to Mowbray as our team is good enough with eleven men.

Bill Calvert

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Bill. Thanks for getting in touch.

I do think we’ve reached the stage where Mason Burstow’s lack of form is becoming too glaring to overlook.

Perhaps he’d benefit from some time out of the team and the chance to rediscover his confidence on the training ground, but it’s not happening for him at this stage and we can’t afford to carry passengers.

For Saturday, I’d be looking to start Hemir against Norwich and see what he can offer. We need a striker who’s willing to shoot and to work the goalkeeper, and Burstow isn’t in that place at the moment. For both his and the team’s sake, I hope that Tony Mowbray makes the change.

Leicester City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

What’s happened to Tony Mowbray, and are the players doing something different?

We’ve gone from a purple patch where we were winning and scoring goals to three defeats in a row and we also seem to be shipping more goals.

I know it’s early, but we need to turn things around quickly and stop the rot in order to maintain a top six position, so we can push for an automatic promotion place.

Anthony Catterson

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Anthony. Thanks for your letter.

At the moment, I feel the team is a little bit short of confidence and that’s having an effect on our usually fluid style of play.

Against Leicester, we were much more purposeful, which was encouraging, but one defensive error ultimately cost us the game, which made it all the more frustrating.

With a young team, these kinds of dips in form are possible, but we’ve emerged from similar slumps before, and I’m absolutely certain that we can do it again.

Leicester City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Holyoak/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I saw a letter about Bobby Charlton on your site and the first comment mentioned how he he’d met Cec Irwin as a result of his work.

It got me thinking about how many fans have come into contact with players though work rather than attending events, etc.

For example, I was a prison officer who banged up Jamie Lawrence, spent a morning with Alan Brown in Durham Prison and was introduced to Ian Porterfield by an ex-con!

J. Wales

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, J. Thanks for getting in touch.

I do have a rather interesting story to share on this subject, as it happens, and it also involves law enforcement!

When I was in primary school, my Game Boy was stolen from my backpack (we never did find out who the thief was) and when we got the police involved, the officer who tried to help us get it back was none other than former Sunderland goalkeeper Tony Norman, who’d joined the force following his retirement from football.

Tony was a regular sight in our area during his days in Durham Police, and he always made time for both me and my dad whenever we saw him. A lovely man, and a top goalkeeper in his day to boot!

Arsenal v Sunderland Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

After watching the Lads against Leicester, it’s obvious that unless Jack Clarke scores, we’ll struggle.

Patrick Roberts continues to flatter to deceive, constantly running down blind alleys and failing to shoot or put in a telling cross. Elsewhere, Mason Burstow is a young player who, after many opportunities, has failed to look like scoring.

At any level of football, players have to believe that they belong in the team, and to me Burstow doesn’t have that belief.

He needs to spend some time in the U23’s until he regains his confidence and in the meantime, it’s time for Hemir and Nazariy Rusyn to be given an opportunity.

The experiment with Burstow has to end now or we’ll continue to slide down the table. Tony Mowbray will start losing support if he doesn’t stop this losing run soon.

Bill Fisher

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Bill. Thanks for getting in touch.

I agree that at this stage, Burstow looks absolutely devoid of confidence and as such, his performances are suffering. Against Leicester, he seemed timid and unsure of exactly how to make an impact on the game, and you couldn’t help but feel slightly sorry for him.

In my opinion, a spell out of the team is exactly what’s needed.

He’s not going to gain anything by constantly being asked to lead the line when he’s so out of form, and against Norwich, I’d love to see Tony Mowbray make that call and make a change up top.

Leicester City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images


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