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Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Editorial: Does ruthless move by Sunderland signal something bigger?

We discuss possible conclusions that came out of the first fixture following Tony Mowbray’s departure, as well as what the move to part ways with the manager might signal moving forward.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

I’m reaching an age where I struggle to remember yesterday never mind last week, so I had a quick read through Gav’s editorial from last Monday and a couple of things jumped out.

First of all, a week can be a hell of a long time in football - other than international breaks where the weeks seem like months - and the other was the speed at which the club called time on Tony Mowbray’s time at the club.

It seemingly felt like that it hadn’t reached that stage yet and two quick-fire home games might be required to see how far we were down that particular path of planning for ‘what’s next?’

Although I was a fan of Mowbray, certainly as a person and also of the job he did since taking over from Alex Neil, there were signs that things had gotten a bit muddled and confused since the last international break.

Constant rotation in personnel in the starting XI culminated in frustration that spilled over into comments made in public about the recruitment policy. This may have been the final straw for the likes of Kristjaan Speakman, but this decision wasn’t based on those comments alone.

Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What was apparent in our victory over West Brom on Saturday was the fact we stripped things back to be able to do the simple things correctly - which was ultimately the foundation that last season’s success was built on.

Trai Hume and Niall Huggins overlapped their winger more times during Saturday’s game than I think they had in all the others combined. It resulted in Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts not being as isolated as they received the ball. In the grand scheme of things a small tweak, but had a huge impact.

We also played the ball forward longer and a bit quicker which resulted in stretching the play at times, which is also something that we haven’t seen for a while. Whether these things were down to becoming set in their ways of slowing down attacks or following instruction we will never know, but based on the evidence at the weekend, it had become stale.

It’s also another example of why we must be in a position where changing the manager/head coach doesn’t become a huge thing.

Our most recent period in the Premier League was littered with managerial appointments that jumped from strategies and different systems that inevitably left a whole host of players that the next manager didn’t want.

With our current setup, the person who picks and motivates the side might be gone, but the process continues regardless. Recruitment will still be aimed at specific players who can fulfill a certain role with a certain style of play that runs through the club.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

However ruthless the move appears, it does appear to signal the beginning of the next phase of the plan.

Their appointments so far have all fulfilled a particular remit. Lee Johnson’s task was to begin the shift to youth and implement a style of play, Alex Neil was required to add a bit of structure and discipline that was potentially missing and Tony Mowbray was the steady pair of hands needed to take care of the young squad after Neil had done a runner.

Time will tell, but the next appointment feels like it’s one to take this group of players from playing by instinct to a more technical way of playing with the obvious intention of lifting them to a higher level.

Just as when they parted company with Lee Johnson, who was within touching distance of the top two when he was shown the door, this is a huge gamble by Speakman, as any decision such as this is all down to who is given the job next.

All we have to go on at the moment is our victory against West Brom, where the performance suggested that a reboot was required and because the direction we’re headed and the strategy doesn’t change, this is simply the next stage of the process.


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