Tony Mowbray is the perfect manager for Sunderland – regardless of whether their dream season ends in promotion or not. That’s the view of former Sunderland star Julio Arca who is delighted with the job his old mentor has done at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats have stormed into promotion contention under Mowbray after the ex-Celtic, West Brom and Blackburn manager’s arrival on Wearside. Mowbray took over from Alex Neil in late August 2022 after the Scot sensationally quit for Stoke City just a few games into the Championship season.
No one would have given Sunderland a prayer of promotion, especially as the young squad was ravaged by injuries to key players throughout the campaign, including their main marksman Ross Stewart. Mowbray, however, has managed to keep the side’s momentum going, culminating in a stunning 3-0 win at Preston North End on Monday to seal an unlikely spot in the play-offs.
It’s a remarkable effort from the manager, who has used all his experience to guide the youngest squad in the league to the brink of the Premier League. And it made it all the more strange that a left-field rumour popped up a month ago suggesting that Italian Francesco Farioli was being lined up for a possible head coach role at the Stadium of Light.
Arca played under Mowbray at Middlesbrough, and credits his former boss as being the manager he’s learned the most from as he starts his own coaching journey in charge of National League North side South Shields.
“Tony has done a fantastic job,” he said. “I’ve been following the two of them (Boro and Sunderland) all season and seen Sunderland, with all the problems with the strikers and injured players.
“I think he’s the right manager now and is doing a fantastic job. To question whether he’d stay or go is unfair. Whatever happens, they’ve had a fantastic season coming from League One. They’ve probably over-achieved but it’s good and it’s exciting. Next season will be important to push on again and hopefully get to the Premier League, but it could happen this season.”
Sunderland take on Luton Town in a two-legged play-off, with the first leg at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, 5.30pm kick-off. They then travel to Kenilworth Road on Tuesday, May 16 for the return match. The winners could come up against another of Arca’s old sides, Boro, in what would be a hotly-anticipated Wear-Tees clash at Wembley on Saturday, May 27. The Teessiders take on Coventry City in their own play-off semi-final.
“Middesbrough have signed some players who have had a good impact and the manager (Michael Carrick) has been great since he arrived,” Arca said. “The only time they played badly was probably against Sunderland. It’s good to see the young managers doing well like Carrick. He might not have had the experience but he obviously came from Manchester United with a lot of knowledge. You can see he’s doing really well.”
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