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Millwall v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Tony Mowbray must find an extra gear for these players - before it’s too late

Another flat performance from a side who have so much more to give - Tony Mowbray must stop his huffing and puffing and be a man of decisive action.

Photo by Dylan Hepworth/MB Media/Getty Images

Last week prior to Newcastle’s lucky-to-escape-with-a-draw sojourn to Paris, where they should have conceded not one, but two penalties, my daughter and I were in a local Gateshead bakery. It was the sort of eatery that will get the flags out for any major event, and on this particular occasion, they had made some cupcakes which the word “TOON” was emblazoned with ill-deserved triumph over the top. Not that PSG in the Champions League would be a major event for a big club.

“I want that one” she said, pointing at the edible Mag propaganda. Of course she did. That one. Not the scone. Not the brownie. Not the sodding custard slice. No sir, I thought, not today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. She’ll be eating our cats before she eats this brazen sponge-based example of sportswashing.

Frankly, I felt like buying up all the cakes just to throw them in the bin. Just like I’ll do with all the newspapers when they inevitably win something.

“One empire biscuit please” I said, before turning to my four-year-old to impart some parental wisdom. Her face suggested she really wanted that cupcake. She was not getting it.

“Sometimes we can’t always have what we want, so Daddy will get you an empire biscuit because they’ve put extra jam in the middle today.”

This whole episode was a perfect analogy for what is happening between Tony Mowbray and Sunderland right now. You cannot always have what you want.

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

The tone of his comments both pre- and post- match suggests all is not well. He’s not happy with the team, he wants more from his players, and he would have liked more from the recruitment department. That much is obvious.

In his mind, he’s playing pontoon and he’s been dealt 15.

What he will be doing is attempting to make sense of it all, how to get the best out of this side. There is no doubt that right now he is not doing that, and it has to change or this will end only in one way.

I do not want Mowbray to leave. I think it would be a backwards step and I do not think the squad want him to go.

However, he must improve. Recent matches have been a grind, to put it mildly.

Millwall v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dylan Hepworth/MB Media/Getty Images

Five defeats in nine. The last three games have been against sides in Millwall and Plymouth who have previously won two in 11. Huddersfield only one in 11. Out of form teams, essentially. Then this week we hear of a training ground inquest, players meeting amongst themselves, trying to work out how to arrest this decline.

What this indicates is that traffic is going in one direction.

Listen - I love Tony. However, it’s becoming more apparent there is something not right. A disconnect between him, how he assesses the quality (or more accurately experience) of players at his disposal, his ability to get his message across to the team, and the wider recruitment strategy has become increasingly stark.

His post match comments sound like a newly departed manager giving an assessment of why things went wrong at the end. And that’s pretty frustrating.

Why? Because the truth is this squad is underachieving right now, and Mowbray’s gripes about experience, recruitment and the general climate around the squad suggest a potentially terminal issue.

Yes, he said he was proud of the side after the match, but it failed to mask his wider frustration which may spell - and I hope it doesn’t - the end of his time here.

It feels like things are coming closer to a head. Long term would that be the best thing?

Well, that’s probably best saved for next time.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Pause for thought


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