Sunderland legend Niall Quinn has hailed the ‘fantastic job’ Tony Mowbray is doing on Wearside, saying the Black Cats boss ‘just gets’ the club. Mowbray took over as head coach in August last year and steered Sunderland into the top six and the play-offs in their first season back in the Championship.
And the Black Cats are demonstrating that they can be among the contenders again, with their home win against Birmingham City going into the international break leaving them sitting sixth in the table with a third of the campaign gone – seven places and six points better off than at the same stage last term. Quinn, who spent six years as a player at Sunderland during which he forged a hugely successful striking partnership with Kevin Phillips, before going on to become chairman and – briefly – manager, gives Mowbray credit for moulding a group of talented youngsters into a team capable of playing attractive, attacking, football that excites supporters, while delivering results.
“I watched the [Birmingham] game and there was some magnificent football played,” Quinn told Ladbrokes Fanzone. “Tony Mowbray is doing a fantastic job up there, he’s got them in sixth place right now, with a lot of teams chasing those play-off spots.
“Leicester and Ipswich seem to be running away with things as far as the automatic spots are concerned, but there’s a real hope up there in Sunderland; they’re enjoying their football once again. I stay in touch with a lot of people up there and everybody is loving the football that’s being played.
“They know it’s a bit of a work in progress with the amount of youngsters in the team, but if they could keep hold of a play-off place, then they’ve had a fantastic season again. Some managers just breeze into town up there; they think they’re coming to a sleeping giant, and that they’re going to bring something to it that’s going to shake the place up.
“And a lot of them are just bluffing, you know? Tony Mowbray is not like that; he’s straight to the point and he knows what he wants.
“It’s all positive. I’m really pleased watching them right now.
“My son is a big fan, he travels over far more than I do. He’s the happiest he’s been for a long time!”
Quinn was so confident Sunderland would make the play-off final last season he had already booked flights from Ireland to London, but the Black Cats came unstuck in the semi-final second leg against Luton Town with the Hatters going on to win promotion. However, Quinn hopes he is booking flights again next May.
He said: “I had flights booked to Wembley last season, I won’t lie! That didn’t work out for me!
“That’s not to say I was overconfident, by the way. I knew Luton were a more physical team, stronger, tight pitch… the space wasn’t there for the Sunderland players to pay their free-flowing game.
“Having said that, I think it was a hell of a performance from Sunderland to get to where they did. There was always a worry as to whether that was a one-off though, and questions around whether or not they’d be able to match those levels this time out.
“And at times, they really have. They’re playing a brand of football that the punters love; the punters are loving how the club is being run, how the team are performing.
“They’re really happy with the kind of players coming in, and they have a manager who just gets it. That’s critical.”
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