Revelling in Mowbray’s Marvel – How Tony Has Stamped His Identity on Sunderland

Matt Keeling waxes lyrical about the current status of Sunderland and pays tribute to Tony Mowbray

A great philosopher once wrote: “The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”

Now, “How does that Aristotle quote apply to Sunderland?”, you’re thinking, aren’t you? Well, you’re about to find out. Maybe.

A few days ago I told you about the last trip I had to QPR. You didn’t read it did you?

Well truthfully, the two trips could not have been, on the pitch at least, further apart. The side that Chris Coleman took to Loftus Road in 2018 was long gone. It was shellshocked, ramshackle, lacking in quality and if we are honest, a complete disgrace.

By this point in that doomed campaign, everything was a lost cause – we entered every game expecting to be beaten and embarrassed by a group of players that largely didn’t care. Most of them weren’t fit to wear the shirt, and the whole thing was a stain on the history of the club. To be fair, that shirt was horrible. They were fit to wear that one. I take it back.

QPR fanzine LoftForWords, in their excellent match report said they brought “a bucket of shit and a whisk” to the game on Tuesday. Well, if that’s what they brought, back in March 2018, Chris Coleman took a massive cowpat and a landmine. Jason Steele, I am looking at you.

Fast forward almost five years, and the transformation is remarkable. It really is. In a few admittedly drunken posts after the game, I was banging on about how football is so much fun again; but it so is.

Going to the match is great now, we’re turning up to these games with genuine hope and at the very least, this group of players will see us entertained.

I say players, I mean players AND, Anthony Mark Mowbray. A man, who has borne the accidents of having no striker and a recurring injury crisis, with yep, you guessed it, dignity, and grace.

He truly is making the best of circumstances; when he was appointed I’m sure we all thought “yeah, this is fine”. Not “yeah this is fine” in the style of the meme where the dog is sat in a burning office just, “yeah, actually this might be pretty boring but it’s okay.”

What Mowbray has done is so much more than fine. The style of football, the belief he has in this young, inexperienced but oh-so-talented side is a joy to watch. His interviews, the way be carries himself and his ability to change things with at times barely any options.

He deserves so much credit, because this could easily have gone the other way, we’d lost a universally-popular manager who had finally been the man to end years of misery and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who at the time thought, “why can’t we just have nice things for a bit?”.

Well, we do have nice things at the minute. We have a fanbase that is completely behind this side, this side being an extremely likeable group of footballers.

How long will the nice things last? Who knows, because after all this is still Sunderland AFC we’re talking about, but I do genuinely think we are in with a chance this season. The team are fearless, nothing fazes them, and for all we lack experience (and a striker *coughs*), we have enough players with quality and a bit of nous to win us these games.

You can only hope the team has a bit of luck and avoids injuries for the rest of the campaign, because we are still short up front and that really would be a cruel blow if it was to cost us probably the most surprising of all our play-off campaigns.

With 15 games to go, we are well in it. Hey, we could finish 12th, we could finish third. I think we will finish sixth, and whatever happens then well it’s truly a lottery and for once, the onus wont be on us. No team will want to play the team that only came up from League One last season in the play-offs. It’s not “a free hit”, but it wouldn’t be far off.

You can’t pick and choose when you get promoted and we should know this all too well. If we fall short this season then so be it, but don’t let it be for the want of trying. And I’m sure it won’t be. Yes, I have insinuated a quote from Aristotle applies to *checks notes* Tony Mowbray, but he has done exactly what it says in the quote. If he keeps this up and takes us into the play-offs, we should fill Wembley with Revels.

Thanks for reading, normal pessimism will be back soon and no doubt I will be writing an article calling for Tony Mowbray to be sacked with immediate effect – hopefully not after the visit of Bristol City, who we will be beating 3-0.