Head coach Tony Mowbray has made a habit of publicly diving into the form and mindset of some of our players. Whether positive or negative, we’ve perhaps heard more than we need to about our squad.
The grilling and overwhelming attention has predominantly come when talking about strikers. Sunderland and strikers have had an uncomfortable, often frustrating relationship in the last year and a bit. We’ve gone from having none for months, to having several but as of yet being unable to get the best out of any of them.
Eliezer Mayenda is the last of our striking quartet to make his debut, and out of the four he’s the one who Mowbray has hyped up the most. Throughout the summer, even after his injury, Mogga has been full of praise. During his pre-Birmingham City press conference, a match in which Mayenda may well be fully fit for, this carried on.
Speaking to the press, Mowbray said: “He’s training really well, he’s a lovely guy who wants to ask questions and get better - and he keeps hitting the back of the net in the training. But he’s very talented, and he’s got a wand of a left foot with real power in it.
He went on: “He’s very dynamic, quick, fast. There’s nothing stopping him being a really good player and hopefully he can put that onto the pitch at first-team level.”
Very positive and exciting, and based on this we should all be pretty excited about seeing even a glimpse of the Spanish forward. We also however shouldn’t forget that Mason Burstow had this similar praise ahead of his debut and in seven appearances, he’s failed to make an impact.
On the Chelsea loanee, Mowbray said that he’d been giving the ball ‘net-rash’ in training. Yet his lack of impact where it counts, in the Championship, has been telling. It is examples like this that are evidence that perhaps putting expectation on the young strikers before they’ve kicked a ball may not be the best idea.
The other side of Mowbray’s public approach to talking about our players is best exemplified through Hemir - and it’s a very different story.
In recent weeks, Mowbray has used his press conference time to make personal criticism of the Portuguese striker. Comments about how he needs to improve his professionalism and how he’s last in first out at training are damning, and there’s obviously an issue.
However, there’s surely scope to sort out issues like this behind closed doors. A young striker down on his luck barely getting a kick isn’t going to be benefited one bit by having his manager publicly called him out to the media.
If Hemir does suddenly turn around his form and attitude and is given more minutes, then I’ll eat my words and say very much fair play.