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Dear Roker Report,
Now that our form has been poor for a while and I think Tony Mowbray is starting to come under pressure, this is what I think the club should and will do with him.
Mowbray been a victim of his own success.
At the start of last season, if you’d told the fans we’d be comfortably in mid-table and three points off the playoffs halfway through our second season, they would’ve been more than happy.
It’s only because we nearly made it all the way that our current position looks ‘bad’, and I think if you take the emotion out of it, the club probably have written down the exact targets for each of the next few seasons, and they won’t radically change them based on a flash in the pan.
Now, onto that ‘flash in the pan’.
We all assumed that we’d kick on this season but losing Amad is massive. He probably papered over a lot of cracks and certainly added a dimension to our play that we’re currently missing.
I don’t think anyone expected him to be so good, so the board aren’t going to be too critical of the head coach because he simply hasn’t been able to pull another superstar out of the bag.
Regarding Mowbray’s style of play, there are cracks in our tactics and they’ve been affected by injury problems in two incredibly specific areas: left back and defensive midfield.
Despite our squad depth, losing every natural left back and central defensive midfielder is going to be a problem. We can’t rotate our midfield so Pierre Ekwah has to play out of position and has been rushed back.
Jobe Bellingham and Dan Neil have been forced to play every game, we’ve had to crowbar other players into the full back positions, and Dennis Cirkin is rushed back every few weeks, only to get injured again.
I think upper management will at least allow Mowbray to ride through this rough patch on the basis of him not being able to pick a balanced team.
Furthermore, Mowbray wasn’t brought in as a tactician. Instead, he’s there to develop young players and increase their value.
We play a style of football that promotes individual ability which showcases individuals as potentially profitable sales and with January around the corner, I expect we’ll lose some players and sign others.
Kristjaan Speakman and company won’t want a sudden change of leadership when the exact type of head coach we want is already in place. Let’s look a year down the line once all our players have more than fifty or one hundred senior appearances.
All in all, I don’t think Mowbray will be going anywhere soon, and I don’t think our current philosophy is as geared towards promotion as the fans might hope.
We need stability and a meteoric rise through the table perhaps doesn’t support that, so the powers that be will stick with what we’ve got. Let Mowbray continue to gently encourage the inexperienced group we’ve got and see where we are at the end of the season.
We’ve had some poor results but let’s not forget that we’ve had some excellent ones too. Let’s not rush to force Mowbray out and trust in those above him.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Jay. Thanks for your letter.
Although results during the past week have been poor, I think that the draw at Millwall on Saturday has definitely bought Mowbray some time and that he’ll certainly be in charge for the games against West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United.
Your point about Mowbray’s job being to nurture and help the young players as they make their way in senior football is absolutely correct, and assuming he guides us to an upper mid-table finish at the end of the season, perhaps the club will seek a new man in the dugout next summer.
They’ve previously shown that they’re not afraid to make big calls when necessary, and if we’re planning for the Championship again next season, there’s a real possibility it might be under a new head coach, and possibly someone from European football instead of a UK-based boss.
At the moment, we’re definitely in a rut and Mowbray seems to be seeking answers wherever he can find them, but the players have shown that they’re good enough and the next two games are crucial as we attempt to end this run of poor form and keep ourselves in the mix for a playoff spot during the hectic winter schedule.
Dear Roker Report,
Have some of our fans lost their memories? Tony Mowbray might not be everyone’s cup of tea but he’s worked wonders with a bunch of kids.
The direction the club is going in will pay dividends and will put us on a good financial footing. We’ll have our ups and downs along the way but at least now we have a plan and a team behind the scenes who are intent on making it work.
We need to keep getting behind the young lads on the pitch and drive them on, because as soon as we start screaming at them, confidence levels will drop and they’ll be afraid of stepping onto the pitch.
I recently saw a photograph of Phil Parkinson and I immediately thought, ‘Thank God we haven't got that management structure anymore and the dross they served up on the pitch’.
We might not get promoted again this season but in my opinion, we’re moving forward.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Chewey. Thanks for getting in touch.
I completely agree that for the first time in at least a decade, there’s a genuine plan in place at Sunderland.
It might not be one that leads to instant success but as you say, it’ll put us on a stable financial footing and will allow us to keep improving the squad and progressing towards an eventual promotion challenge while ensuring that we get the most out of every transfer- both arrivals and departures.
The idea that we ‘lack ambition’ just doesn’t make sense to me, because within this way of operating, it’s not a matter of how much we spend, but how wisely we spend it.
That’s what we should’ve been doing years ago, and it doesn’t turn us into a ‘feeder club’, either. The dynamics of football have shifted and we’ve had to find a new place within the pecking order.
That’s just a fact, as the game has changed enormously during the six years since we played in the Premier League and we’ve had to adjust accordingly.