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“Talk of Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland departure is completely tone deaf!”

As Sunderland failed to book a return to Wembley after a truly amazing season, the future of our coach was quickly and unfairly thrown into doubt by the media, writes Jon Guy

The work starts now - Mowbray gets thumbs up to remain in charge
| Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

What a week for Tony Mowbray.

Having seen his young side come so close to a Championship playoff final, he faced media speculation that he was about to lose his job.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Thankfully, it seems like it was merely speculation, and Mowbray and the recruitment team are said to be making plans for the new campaign.

However, the whole episode did have me thinking about what might’ve been behind the rumours, because the club have made it clear that they’re taking a very data-led approach to all aspects of the operation.

When Alex Neil left, they moved quickly for Mowbray, saying that they consistently monitor coaches in case someone decides to seek greener grass or higher wages elsewhere.

The names linked were interesting, with European coaches who, although highly rated on the continent, were less well-known here.

It may point to the fact that the club wants to utilise a more continental model in its management structure, and let’s face it: they’ve recruited very well from outside of the UK in the past year.

However, I think the question was whether these rumours leaked prematurely.

It also points to the fact that had Mowbray and the team secured a Premier League berth, the view from the top was that such a player overall would be required for life in the top flight, and now was the time for a long-term appointment to be made to allow the new coach to start to shape the playing squad in their preferred image.

Ifs and buts aside, had Mowbray been shown the door, it would’ve been shocking, given what he’s done this year.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

He arrived with the squad- and dare I say the club- in turmoil following Neil’s departure.

Rumours of discontent over the club’s inability or unwillingness to keep him abounded and many supporters were not only shocked, but feared the worst.

He came in, saw the club recruit highly talented but raw players and went about creating a team spirit, as well as developing a brand of football and a playing style that we’ve absolutely loved.

We shot out of the gates at the start of the season with Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms in fine form, before Stewart was injured in the warm up at the Riverside and Simms suffered a broken toe.

Undaunted at having no recognised striker, Mowbray changed the shape of the team, the results keep coming and so did the goals, with Jack Clarke’s effort at Reading still my goal of the season.

Some months later, Simms was recalled by Everton but Stewart was back and we were working to bring in Joe Gelhardt to play as his foil. However, suddenly Stewart’s season was over and we were left with no out-and-out number nine.

All of this took place with the words of Blackburn fans ringing in our ears about how Mowbray’s sides fall off a cliff after February.

Far from it.

Despite the bitterly disappointing defeat to Stoke, the team battled on and the final-day heroics from the lads and Blackburn Rovers at The New Den saw us make the playoffs during a season where survival was the target from the outset.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

All things considered, Mowbray deserves a chance to continue to build this team, and there are challenges aplenty for the season ahead.

Captain Corry Evans might not see first team action this year, and Stewart is set to return but he needs careful handling both on and off the pitch, with his contract situation still to be resolved.

There are some huge decisions to be made on strengthening the squad and while the proposed signing of Jobe Bellingham is bright for the future, Mowbray has made it clear that we can’t rely on young players alone.

There needs to be some older heads amongst the talented youngsters and getting the balance on the pitch and in the dressing room is task number one.

The fact is that Mowbray has been there so many times before, and he clearly gets the players, the club and the fans. It’ll be a tough league next season but we have to believe we can kick on.


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