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It really shouldn’t have come to this.
After drawing with Millwall at the start of the month, Tony Mowbray was suddenly and ruthlessly out of a job.
The exact reasons for his dismissal haven’t been made clear but it appeared that his post-match comments after the game in London touched a nerve with the club’s decision-makers.
At the time, Mowbray was asked about getting the balance right between experienced and younger players in his squad.
There’s a balance between developing players and achieving positive results. Sometimes players just aren’t ready.
It’s going to be a slightly longer journey [to the Premier League] than some people here hoped because of the inexperience of these players.
I’ve always been a development coach. I try and make players better, make them grow. Hopefully results follow, and if they don’t, you lose your job.
Mowbray’s relationship with the club’s much-discussed ‘model’ had been tempestuous for some time and it was no surprise that he lost his job, given the heightened tension that appeared to surround his position this season.
In removing the former West Bromwich Albion and Celtic boss, the decision-makers broke up an unlikely relationship between the fans, the players, and the club.
Mowbray’s down-to-earth and affable demeanour made him one of the most likeable Sunderland bosses in years. His knowledge of the North East also endeared him to the supporters and it felt like a perfect fit at times.
The decision to sack him was met with disappointment but also an acceptance that perhaps a fresher, dynamic coach was necessary for us to move to the next level. Indeed, with the likes of Will Still, Kim Hellberg and Julien Sablé linked, it felt like Kristjaan Speakman and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus had a plan in place for what was next.
With all of this talk going on, it was a shock when former Glasgow Rangers manager Michael Beale was appointed.
Both of his previous managerial roles had been tainted by drama and disappointing results, which left his appointment all the more bewildering.
The question on the lips of most fans is whether the appointment of Beale is an upgrade on Mowbray, or whether the club wanted a supposed ‘yes man’ to take over.
Whilst acknowledging the Mowbray’s flaws, the hiring of Beale appeared to be nothing more than a ‘sideways appointment’, with the club seemingly tone-deaf to the feelings of the fans.
Evidentally, Speakman and company are strong enough to deal with the negative noise that’s surrounded the club during the past few weeks, even if one must question how a supposed ‘thorough’ process eventually ended with a candidate who’s achieved virtually nothing as a coach in his own right.
After losing to Coventry City, Beale has an even bigger job on his hands to win over a fanbase who were almost wholly against his appointment from the very beginning.
During a bizarre weekend, the news of Mowbray’s dismissal was matched by the FA Cup draw that paired us with Newcastle United. That news split supporters between those who are concerned that our deficiencies will be exposed, and those who just want a crack at our biggest rivals.
Unfortunately, the game has now been marred by issues related to ticketing.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Newcastle have been allocated 6,000 tickets in the North Stand, leaving many Sunderland fans disappointed that they’ve been moved from their regular seats.
Although it’s a situation that no one could’ve foreseen, it must be asked if the club did all they could to assist their own fans, or if money was the driving factor. Communication has been an issue and hopefully, lessons are learned from it.
These two issues have made the atmosphere suddenly extremely tense, and a glance at social media would make you believe that people want Speakman and Dreyfus ‘sacked’ or ‘gone’.
These are likely to be the same fans who wanted Mowbray sacked last season when we went on a bad run, or who were cheering when Abdoullah Ba was substituted on Saturday.
I sometimes wonder exactly what these fans want, or whether they’re doing their best impression of Mrs Doyle from Father Ted, when she expresses her love of ‘misery’.
It’s clear that mistakes have been made by the board in recent weeks but some people should remind themselves where we were less than two years ago. Since the new regime arrived, they’ve brought the club further than any of us could’ve expected in such a short period.
Among some of the recent achievements are:
- Promotion in their first full season.
- Completely overhauling the playing squad and unearthing some of the best young talent in the EFL.
- Making profits from selling players for the first time in years.
- Reaching a playoff semi-final during our first season back in the second tier.
- Implementing a style of play that’s connected fans with the club for the first time in years.
As Luke O’Nien stated after the defeat to Coventry, perspective is needed.
Things aren’t as bad as people are making out and we should remember the achievements of the club before we call for drastic changes.
In my opinion, it’s not a time for throwing our toys out of the pram, as there’s still a long way go during the 2023/2024 season.
I’m not sold on the appointment of Beale but is that a good enough reason to want the board sacked or to sarcastically cheer our own players off the pitch?
I don’t think so.