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Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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What might have been

The departure of Alex Neil to Stoke City could have thrown Sunderland’s first season back in the Championship into turmoil - with Tony Mowbray at the helm it’s been a very different story

Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

It’s the middle of February and Sunderland are fresh from yet another fantastic performance and win in the Championship. The dismantling of QPR moved us into the playoffs and our young, exciting squad continues to take the league by the scruff of its neck.

Despite the season being only three quarters complete, it is hard to fathom that less than five months ago our Alex Neil jumped ship to Stoke. It was a move that led to concern that our season could unravel before it had barely got going. Yet. Fast forward to right here, right now and we have a team that has grown into a tough, skillful, and exciting unit under the steady hand of Tony Mowbray.

Few teams could surely have headed down the path we have in that not only have we steadied things after losing a manager suddenly, we’ve moved on to be stronger and better. Cast your minds back to late August and the news that Neil had dropped everything that was being built at Sunderland to takeover at Stoke. Having our manager prised away so soon into the Championship adventure was a kick in the teeth, but my god how wonderful is the benefit of hindsight?

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

On very few occasions have we looked out of our depth in the Championship under Mogga. In each game, particularly in the last 10 matches of which we’ve lost just two and been on the winning side five times, we have flicked and passed our way around the opposition and scored a hatful of great goals in the process.

We’ve come up against plenty of teams this season who have looked dull, drab and void of ideas. Reading and QPR, who we’ve beaten in the last few days, fall under this category. Reading counted on running the clock down and doing everything to avoid playing football in order to leave Wearside with a result. Luckily, our resilience paid off and Paddy Roberts helped to unlock the visiting side.

QPR weren’t much better and they looked incapable of stopping us from taking hold of the match down at Loftus Road. Their run of no home win since October makes complete sense now.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

This may sound like an arrogant take on other teams in the league, but its the truth. We look light years ahead of some teams who have been plodding around the Championship for years, yearning for something good to happen without actually putting the work in.

With Sunderland, the successes of this season have been in the making for at least the last two years. A slow and steady transfer policy whilst building a footballing philosophy the likes of which we’ve not seen at the club in years is helping to give us back an identity we can be proud of.

Alex Neil is going to be in a relegation scrap with a lacklustre Stoke City side, whilst Tony Mowbray will be pushing Sunderland to the brink of the top six. We’ve nailed it with Mowbray - let’s hope this is just the beginning.


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