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With news of the appointment of Tony Mowbray, we spoke to Middlesbrough fan and sports journalism student James Barker to give us the lowdown on what to expect from 'Mogga'...

We know he was a good player, but how did Mowbray do as a manager at Middlesbrough?

Mowbray took over the club in October 2010, succeeding a genius of the football pitch - but not so much of the dugout - Gordon Strachan. Boro sat 22nd in the Championship when Mogga was appointed, before he guided us to the safety of a 12th place finish. He spent two more full seasons on Teesside, finishing 7th and 16th respectively, but more importantly, Mowbray was absolutely pivotal in steadying the ship off the back of a turbulent Strachan era. He signed would-be key players such as George Friend, Grant Leadbitter, Albert Adomah and Dimi Konstantopoulos and laid the foundations for Aitor Karanka to succeed him and win automatic promotion just two seasons later.

Does he have a specific style of play that fans can expect?

Mowbray could bring a style of play that complements your squad perfectly. In the 2020/21 season with Blackburn Rovers, Mowbray was keen to play a high possession-based system, with his side averaging 57.6% possession per game. But they found themselves conceding too many goals and would finish that season in 15th. This prompted the gaffer to switch to a more counter-attacking style of play last season in an attempt to soak up the pressure and concede less goals. Rovers' average possession per game dropped to 44.8%, and the team would finish the season in 8th place, just narrowly missing out on a play-off spot after spending 157 days inside the top six last season. That could be seen then as a negative, but the reality is that for the most part, this tactical switch was highly successful, with his side conceding fewer goals and keeping more clean sheets. Does that not sound like an ideal remedy to Sunderland's current defensive woes to you? If Mowbray could come in and implement that same system that's built upon being solid at the back with success, paired with the attacking weapons that Sunderland have, it could well be a match made in heaven.

There are rumours of discontent in the dressing room - will he be able to pull the players together the same way Alex Neil did?

If there's one thing you wouldn't want to do, it would be to get on the wrong side of Tony Mowbray! The complexion of his face tells the story of a man who's probably spent his summer holiday this year two-footing local kids on a five-a-side pitch. In all seriousness, he's always been a leader of men, captaining Middlesbrough at just 22 years old, so don't be fooled by his somewhat softly spoken voice. But he's also a manager that his players would run through a brick wall for, he's an ideal candidate for a club wanting a strong figure to come in and pull a dressing room together.

Why did he leave his job at Boro?

I think it was a case of him simply taking the squad that he had as far as he could. Finishing 7th in 2011/12 with your friend Jason Steele in goal and the remnants of Scotland's national walking football B team (barring Barry Robson), I don't think anybody would've denied him an early retirement had he chosen to do so. And after a disappointing start to the following season, Mowbray knew that for the sake of his boyhood club, it was time for a fresh face with new ideas to take over. That of course was Aitor Karanka, and as previously mentioned, thanks to Mogga, the foundations had been laid and shrewd additions had been made, paving the way for a Premier League return two years later, albeit a whistle-stop tour.

What do you think about Mowbray joining your local rivals?

It's painful, no two ways about it. I'm not old enough to remember his playing days for Middlesbrough, but for those who do it will be especially tough. He's the local hero who captained his beloved Boro through our darkest times. Through liquidation and the death of our club being broadcast on local TV in 1986. Through Steve Gibson rescuing the club but not in time to stop the team from falling to the third division of English football. Through having to ground share with Hartlepool United just so we could fulfil our fixtures in 1985/86. And through back-to-back promotions and a return to the first division, Tony Mowbray was captain of Middlesbrough through it all. So will it be painful to see him sporting the crest of Sunderland A.F.C. on his chest? Yes. But can I not wish anything but the best for Mogga? Absolutely not.

We have loads of youngsters in the squad. Does that suit him or does he prefer using experienced Championship heads?

Bringing through and developing young players has been somewhat of a forte for Mowbray in recent years. You just have to look at the development of players such as Harvey Elliott, Ben Brereton-Diaz, Jan Paul Van Hecke, Tyrhys Dohlan, John Buckley, Lewis Travis and Adam Armstrong to name but a few from his time at Blackburn. So you'd have to be excited and encouraged by the potential impact he could have on the already exciting young talent you have in your squad.

Do you reckon he'll be able to solidify us in the Championship and perhaps push for the play-offs?

I've probably answered one half of this question to a certain extent already, and that is that I firmly believe he would solidify Sunderland's position in the Championship. He did this to perfection with Middlesbrough. The question mark would be his ability to kick on from there and take you to a position in which you are contending for promotion. The tricky thing about this is that he has done this with Blackburn Rovers, he's taken them up from League One, and for long parts of last season, looked nailed on to be hosting a play-off semi-final at Ewood Park at worst. But there is that niggling reminder that his Blackburn team was unable to sustain their challenge, and ultimately fell away to 8th position. The evidence is there that however that he can take a club like yourselves from League One and turn them into promotion contenders in a relatively short space of time.

Overall what are your thoughts on Tony Mowbray?

Overall, Tony Mowbray is first and foremost a top class human being. He knows what football and following your team means to people up in the North East, and for that reason, I think he'll connect with Sunderland fans regardless of his allegiances to the Boro. But if you're looking for a proper leader and someone you'd want in the trenches with you; someone who'll get hold of a dressing room and iron out any creases holding it back from being a bobby dazzler of a shirt; if you want a manager who has proven he can be proactive and open-minded in regards to tactically improving his squad; if you want a manager who has taken a side from League One and turned them into Championship promotion contenders, and if you want a manager who has an up-to-date CV of recruiting, nurturing and developing young talent, then Tony Mowbray should be right at the top of your list.