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Roker Roundtable: How should Sunderland ‘go forward’ with Joe Gelhardt?

Sunderland’s Head Coach has spoken publicly of his frustrations with finding a way to fit Joe Gelhardt into the team - so, what’s the best way forward in his final two months at the club?

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Tom Albrighton says...

The Gelhardt conundrum is an interesting one, and in a strange way I think finding an answer to the situation is more about saving face than anything else.

I won’t sit here and pretend Joffy has had a flawless introduction to this Sunderland side, but I will defend him on the basis that for almost the entirety of his time here we’ve played to him as if he’s Ross Stewart, then realised he isn’t Ross Stewart before coming to the conclusion he should simply be more like Ross Stewart - it’s not exactly meta-thinking.

In terms of what we do next, I think our only option is to keep banging at the door and see if we can unlock something, anything to get Joffy scoring goals.

As our season goes from a boil to a simmer, it doesn’t matter much to our wider aims if he scores 10 or 1 between now and the end of the season, but it does matter in the long run.

Getting Joffy scoring is key to how we present ourselves to the wider football community - specifically Premier League clubs - as we shape ourselves to be a legitimate destination for the best young prospects to come and hone their skills and if a striker like Gelhardt can’t advance himself whilst at the Lads, it doesn’t paint a very enticing picture and one that plenty of clubs will likely take note of.

In terms of the answers, I think they could be as simple as dropping an attacking midfielder for a more defensive one to draw teams out and allow space in behind for Gelhardt to operate in, as we’ve seen he isn’t a back-to-goal striker in any sense of the words. The answer may sit in a more complicated and wholesale change, with calls for a back 3 and 5 ringing amongst the fanbase.

Regardless of what the answer is, it’s for Mowbray to find.

Ultimately, it would be nice to see Gelhardt showcase the talent a lot of people know he has but to first do that we need to play to his strengths rather than hope he’ll wake up tomorrow a foot taller and with exactly the same skill set as Ross Stewart, but it isn’t the be all and end all this season.

For the longer term vision it still isn’t a be-all and end-all scenario, but if our ambitions are serious then becoming a by-word for quality, be it loans or otherwise relies on players like Joe finding themselves at this level and thriving.

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Mitch Marshall says...

At this point, I think Mowbray needs to do him a favour. It’s all well and good coming out every week after he’s failed to impact the game again and saying that it’s hard for him to adapt to leading the line.

At this point this is just flogging a dead horse as Gelhardt’s confidence looks shot and he isn’t adapting to the role at all as far as I can see.

He has frustrated me at times but honestly, I feel like he’s been involved in our play so little that I couldn’t actually tell you if he’s any good technically or not.

So, Mowbray needs to decide if he is or not based on what he sees in training. Then he either needs to take him out of the team and try something different - whether that’s Amad or even O’Nien up top - or change the system to fit Gelhardt’s strengths.

If he isn’t used to playing as a lone striker, why not play him behind Amad or even Jewison Bennette? Playing him up front on his own is achieving nothing and knocking the lad’s confidence lower with every passing week.

If Mowbray is just doing this to make a point, that’s pretty poor and quite unfair on ‘Joffy’. If he hasn’t got any better ideas, then that’s even more worrying. I don’t think it’s impossible for Gelhardt to come good in the run in, even if I haven’t seen much to suggest he will so far. I can’t see it happening in our current system, though, so something has got to give.

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Malc Dugdale says...

I don’t actually think there should be two camps.

I do think Joffy has wasted a good few opportunities but I think if we had played more to his strengths he may have had even more chances, and he may have bagged a fair few more too.

He should have more than one goal to his name in red and white but the team and the coaches are as much to blame as the lad from Leeds for me. We are still way too aligned to feeding a Nessie rather than a young lad who could not be more different.

While it would be easy to give up now, we don’t really have a choice to do that. We only have Gelhardt, and thinking about it his situation reminds me a little of the Ally McCoist challenge all them years ago… there is clearly a tune in there but do we have the right conductor to get it out and to hit the harmonies it promises? Maybe not.

No doubt just like Super Ally, Joffy may well leave and start firing them in from all angles. I’m not saying he is the new McCoist but players can be very good and just not fit right now, as was the case back then, and maybe also now.

What we can do is use these last 11 games to experiment, learn and prep for next season. Even if Joffy isn’t part of that, we need to be able to play with different approaches, styles and tactics with or without a Ross Stewart-type figure so let’s make some progress in that direction.

I wish the lad well and he will likely be something of a player, but let’s learn and grow rather than blame the kid, give up on him and stagnate.

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