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Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship

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Beginning, the end, or somewhere in between?

“With the shine seemingly dissipated from Mowbray’s aura, is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?” asks Tom Albrighton.

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


After a surprise defeat at Plymouth whereby Sunderland largely dominated proceedings things were put down to it being “one of those days”.

One of those days turned rapidly into “one of those weeks” when the same frailties and shortcomings were exposed against lowly Huddersfield in another chastening defeat.

With an away trip to a struggling Millwall yet to come, anything other than a win may allow this week’s issues to take advantage of the freezing conditions and snowball into something much more severe.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

For the record, I like Tony Mowbray, and unlike some I was somewhat enthused by his appointment and the subsequent evolution of Sunderland under his guidance has given us more than our fair share of unbridled joy.

When musing over what the future holds for both Mowbray and Sunderland there will remain the question of whether Mowbray will end up being the victim of his own successes here. Unfortunately for now, much like the twee confectionary-based craic so many like to partake in, the glean has firmly worn off.

What comes next is anyone's guess but anything other than a win away at Millwall - whose form book, particularly at home, makes for stark reading - will accelerate that process quite significantly and more than likely in the most telling of ways.

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

In that sense, whilst Millwall may not be the straw that breaks the camel's back it isn’t unreasonable that after a summer of flirting with the notion of changing managers, a defeat especially would swing the idea of parting ways with Mowbray firmly into view.

That, of course, would signal that we would potentially be at the beginning of the end for Mowbray because once the suggestions of parting ways enter the rearview mirror, rarely do they ever leave it.

Of course, thanks to football being a complicated and fickle beast, a win at Millwall would allay some fears so long as the form lines even themselves out in the subsequent weeks.

In that sense, it’s perfectly reasonable to assess that rather than being at the beginning of the end for Mowbray, we are more likely to be at the end of the beginning in what I shall tentatively dub as our Renaissance.

The end of the beginning doesn’t stand to mean that anything can’t change on a whim, but it would be a more fitting assessment given that patience has been a byword for practically the entirety of KLD’s tenure at the club.

Upheaval of the most severe kind is edging its way closer and as the clock ticks relentlessly toward January, amongst such potentially grandiose changes comes an argument for stability provided by those with experience and calmness.

That stability and calmness, as well as a wholehearted investment into the project, is precisely why we have Tony Mowbray in the first instance and why up until now things have worked so well.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

It felt to me on Wednesday that the first chapter of Sunderland's revival had finally reached its conclusion. The squad itself was settled if not lacking in potency and ideas, and whilst the manner and terms of the defeat to Huddersfield was unacceptable, it felt for the second time in a week that we were just a midtable side.

Of course, the perverse nature of being a Sunderland fan means that despite years in League One longing for mid-table security in the Championship being a lofty ambition, now it has finally arrived, much like your mother-in-law at Christmas, nobody is actually keen on being in its presence.

As the frustration of the Huddersfield result naturally subsides we’ll all look at this run of results through a wider lens and consider that due to the Championship being a cacophony of madness and inconsistency, that a few good results puts us back where we think we want to be.

Mowbray has arguably earned more than enough credit to preside over the occasional sticky patch, provided it satiates fans by leading us towards the crescendo of a promotion push rather than fading us out into a relegation dogfight.

Strangely enough, despite all the murmurings of discontent, it is to Mowbray’s credit that the former seems infinitely more likely than the latter.

And as such, we find ourselves in that unfamiliar position of not quite knowing what to think. For all Mowbray’s flaws there is always an argument in favour of him retaining his position, and until results make his position an untenable one it’s unlikely Mowbray would be relieved of his position and in my opinion alone, that is quite right.

After all a lot of what is and has been so good, from playing style to the atmosphere within the squad has been designed or had a significant impact from the hand of Mowbray and that cannot be ignored or understated even in the ‘testing’ times.

The fact that under Mowbray’s guidance sitting 4 points from the Play-Offs at the start of December could be considered testing is a testament to what has been achieved so far.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

So as we head to The Den and the sense of the unknown lurking before us all, it may be better that we take stock of where we are for now and consider this as the end of the beginning - a beginning that has brought us successive Play-Offs, excitement, enthusiasm, a brand of football that has had fans and pundits purring with delight and a squad brimming with young, exciting talent.

That isn’t to say those factors cannot remain, but we can’t ignore the looming reality of where we stand in footbal’ls enormous and ever-expanding food chain.

Change is looming much like the uncertainty of the coming weeks, and with it we perhaps need to embrace the potential chaos to ensue and welcome this ending of sorts to allow us the closure to enjoy what comes next, be it with our stars or without.

To that final aspect, Tony Mowbray will not be here indefinitely as with all managers their time is finite, but what can’t do and must strive not to do is be too hasty, too knee-jerk and too ruthless in our short term ambition to not realise that allowing these scenarios to play out until their natural end may be more beneficial in the long-term rather than forcing the issue at hand.

The rewards may not be visible to us yet, and as unsavoury it may be to some, we must all remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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