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Today saw the publication of Tony Mowbray’s leaving statement. Which, in keeping with the man himself, was generous, humble and without an ounce of bitterness — class final act if you will.
All were thanked, the players, who ‘showed humility and embraced the methods’. The owner, for giving him the opportunity. Support staff at the academy and stadium were thanked. He saved the biggest thanks for the supporters who, he said, were ‘inspirational’.
One notable omission was that of Kristjaan Speakman, the club’s sporting director and his direct boss. Maybe he would come under the ownership.
Ending on a high, he said he leaves the club energised and enthusiastic for his next challenge. He’s got plenty of time — his contract runs until next year, so he has no worries on that score.
Not that I begrudge him that. He did an excellent job, the players loved him and he was an excellent man manager. He was personable and approachable. An all-round good human being.
That said, it doesn’t mean the club weren’t wrong to dispense with his services when they did.
In his last match in charge, we only just managed to avoid a second three-defeat-in-a-row sequence this season. The first being 7-24 October when we lost to Middlesbrough, Stoke and Leicester.
More recently we lost at 19th-placed Plymouth, at home to 20th-placed Huddersfield and narrowed escaped losing to 16th-placed Millwall - a late Jack Clarke penalty rescuing a point on that occasion.
In each of those games, we seemed to lack ideas and after an initial 20-minute flourish, our opponents gained confidence and we went into our collective shells.
We had plenty of shots and possession, but the only stats that matter are goals and they had started to dry up.
Saturday’s game against West Brom saw coach, Mike Dodds, take charge. And what a difference. Slight nuances, but that’s all that was needed. Wing backs supported the wingers. Substitutions were made at sensible times and were understandable and had a noticeable effect.
I called BBC Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport programme on the Monday evening to say this. The show’s former Sunderland striker regular, Marco Gabbiadini, took issue with my assessment that Mowbray had been floundering. He felt I had been unfair. But the proof is in the pudding.
As it was the next evening, against a high-flying Leeds United. A team that had been unbeaten in seven games and have high-flying Leicester as one of their scalps. In a match that resembled a game of chess, the Leeds keeper was the busier and was finally beaten in the 78th minute by Jobe Bellingham.
Then a master class of game management was put in place to see out the final 18 minutes of normal and stoppage time.
To come out of these two very difficult games with two wins was impressive and you have to ask: if Tony Mowbray was still in charge, would that have been the outcome? Our last brace of wins under him was September/October when we beat Sheffield Wednesday and Watford.
That Sheff Wed game, incidentally, was our last away win. I wonder what the odds are to make it a Dodds triple at Bristol City on Saturday?