With the departures of established experienced players such as Danny Batth and Lynden Gooch, there has been a great deal of discussion around the inexperience of the squad that Tony Mowbray now has at his disposal.
Over the next couple of days, Mike Stubbs takes a look at the leaders we still have who might help Sunderland’s exciting prospects cope with the ups and downs of a Championship season.
Todays focus is on recent recruit Bradley Dack.
The relationship between a manager and a player can be the difference between someone fulfilling their potential or never quite reaching the level that their capabilities should allow them to.
Mutual trust and confidence is key to that relationship, and few players have more reason to have faith in Tony Mowbray than Bradley Dack.
It was at Blackburn, under Mowbray’s tutelage, that Dack truly began to flourish before injuries curtailed his development. Since Mowbray’s arrival at Sunderland, there have been frequent links, with the head coach apparently very keen to be reunited with a player of such mercurial talent.
With that in mind, it was no surprise when Dack finally appeared in the red and white stripes.
Without a proper pre-season behind him, we’ve still to see just how effective a fit and injury-free Dack will be, but it’s clear that Mowbray sees him fulfilling a similar role to Alex Pritchard, a role he’s played to such good effect.
Our pressing game has always looked more positive and effective with Pritchard leading it, encouraging the younger players at the top of the pitch to never let the opposition defence settle.
Against Southampton, that role fell to Dack and, my goodness, how well he fulfilled it.
With young willing runners around him in Jobe Bellingham, Abdoullah Ba and Jack Clarke, Southampton were rarely able to settle, even inside their own eighteen yard box. By the time Pritchard eventually replaced him, the game was won.
Dack’s career statistics indicate that he poses a far more potent goal threat than Pritchard, a point proved when he forced Gavin Bazunu into a point-blank save from a header, before diverting Ba’s follow up effort into the net.
The early indications are that Dack can be ‘Alex Pritchard Plus’.
Along with club skipper Corry Evans, Mowbray now has two trusted lieutenants from his Blackburn days to help him manage and mould the plethora of young talent at his disposal.
Dack’s know-how, guile and experience may prove crucial in helping players such as Nazariy Rusyn, Eliezer Mayenda, Hemir and Mason Burstow fill the Ross Stewart-sized gap in our attack.