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Marking Tony Mowbray’s fiftieth game as Sunderland head coach!

As Mogga brings up the half-century of games as Lads boss, Paddy Hollis writes that there’s much more to him than a love of chocolate and a Boss gilet!

Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

The August bank holiday weekend of 2022 was one of turmoil and chaos at Sunderland.

In the space of a week, we won 1-0 at Stoke City before returning to the North East, only for then head coach Alex Neil to open talks with Stoke, fail to show up for our game against Norwich City and then leave for the Potteries.

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

The club acted quickly in response, and four days after the loss to Norwich, Tony Mowbray was in the dugout to oversee a 3-0 win against Rotherham United.

The appointment of Mogga divided opinion, with many feeling the early progress on the pitch could stagnate under a boss often referred to as a ‘dinosaur’.

My first reaction to the news of his appointment was that he was a solid choice, and I was sure that getting him on board would lead to us comfortably remaining in the Championship.

A promotion push wasn’t on my mind at the start of the season and once he arrived, I figured I’d be content with the mid-table finish I was sure he’d lead us to.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

As the days and weeks passed by, and despite our brutal injury record, it became apparent that we wouldn’t just be treading water.

Mowbray had got our young and exciting team playing good football, not by trying to impose his thesis on them, but rather the complete opposite. He allowed our players to express themselves and showcase the talent they had, and in doing so, we become a tough team to face.

With Mowbray at the helm, we’ve got a North East native with a wealth of experience as a head coach, and someone who knows how to get the best out of his players.

His quiet, unassuming, and occasionally glass half-empty view of the game has been the reason for our exciting style of football going under the radar. If his name was Antonio Mowberini and he came from a second division Italian team, Sky Sports would’ve produced an array of features on him by now.

In the last twelve months, we’ve developed a fearless style of football which has enabled us to get results when Sunderland teams of previous years would’ve faltered.

Our new approach has been a key factor in this, but the style and confidence bestowed on our young squad by Mowbray can’t be underestimated.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by John Early/Getty Images

During his time in charge, there have been periods where he’s been frustrated, and it’s often been justified.

The ongoing struggle to sign a striker has been well documented, with Mowbray venting his frustrations to the media on a weekly basis.

Being in the position of head coach rather than manager has resulted in limitations when it comes to transfers, and although he’s seemed happy in most instances, his instructions to Kristjaan Speakman and company have been clear: ‘Get me a striker or two’.

Over twelve months and fifty games, Mowbray has done a fantastic job.

He’s often been restricted by injuries but he’s always made sure we had enough about us to put in a good showing.

He’s more than just a gilet-wearing, Revels-munching gaffer from Saltburn. He’s a head coach who was the right fit for Sunderland last August, and he remains the right man for the job today.


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