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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship

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Alex Pritchard has proven himself once again

Alex Pritchard remains a crucial part of this Sunderland team, and his performance on Saturday proved that. 

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Pierre Ekwah hobbled off with an injury moments after QPR took the lead, many from a red-and-white faithful would have looked on in anguish.

One of Sunderland’s leading lights from the opening five matches was clearly in some discomfort: Mowbray later explaining the problem was with a dead leg, but Ekwah couldn’t continue.

Yet, within the layers of hesitancy of Ekwah’s injury, Alex Pritchard was given his opportunity.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, there was some immense doubt that Pritchard would still be based in the North East after a full transfer window of speculation linking his future away from Wearside.

The model is clearly focused on young and upcoming talent, and with the arrival of Bradley Dack, it was looking increasingly likely that the 30-year-old would be with a new club after the international break.

How close Pritchard was to an exit from the club is a question that we will have to wait to know the answer to, but until January at least, he will remain a Sunderland player.

The quality that Pritchard has is rather undeniable, and whilst everyone at the club knows this (Mowbray has frequently referred to the talent that he is), all five of his league appearances this campaign have come from the bench.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In his only start this season in the EFL Cup penalty defeat to Crewe, Pritchard was arguably one of the main players in attack, constantly attempting to orchestrate moments in the final third.

So, when Ekwah stuttered off the Loftus Road turf, attention turned to Pritchard and what impact he could make on the contest.

His job was made a lot easier, and a lot more convenient for him only seven minutes after his introduction when Colback was given his dismissal.

It allowed us to push one of the central midfielders further forward with Dan Neil protecting the backline against a QPR side, under the influence of Gareth Ainsworth, who were seeking to protect what they had and seek breath from Sunderland dominance through striker, Sinclair Armstrong.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What it did was allow Pritchard to step to the fore and showcase his true potential to Mowbray, and prove that, despite this young revolution at the club, he should still very much be in the plans of the ‘gaffer.

He was at the heart of many of our flurries forward, and probably should have had an assist to his name when his cross was nodded in by Jobe Bellingham, only for a debatable offside flag to be raised.

For many, he would have been the star performer in London, but the sheer number of players that could put their name into that category means that Pritchard’s impact may not get the praise that it deserves.

But what cannot be understated is that Pritchard remains an instrumental cog in this Sunderland team’s mechanisms, and hopefully this performance has put him firmly back into Mowbray’s plans for the future.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

That said though, like we saw with the departures of Danny Batth and Lynden Gooch over the summer, we cannot be sure that these more experienced players remain a part of the club’s model.

Of course, the model has brought some rather special talents to Wearside, but not many have the quality and ability that Pritchard has: Adil Aouchiche’s short cameo in this one may have proved that he may become Pritchard's replacement in the future.

For now though Pritchard is still in the red-and-white, and he has the quality that may prove decisive in the first half of this campaign.

That is until January when his future will come into question once more.


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