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Opposition Lowdown: Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland

Reading return to action this Wednesday evening with a home game against newly promoted Sunderland. Join us as we take a look at the opposition.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Sunderland secured promotion back to the Championship last season after four years away from the English second tier. The Black Cats finished in fifth place in League One but won the play-offs, beating Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 in the final after defeating Sheffield Wednesday over two legs in the semi-finals.

They have had a good start to life back in the Championship, currently sitting in eighth place, having seen three wins, two draws and three losses so far. Two of those wins have come on the road, with The Black Cats beating Bristol City and Stoke City on their travels.

The 2017/18 season saw the last meetings between the two sides, with Reading beating Sunderland 1-3 at The Stadium of Light before a 2-2 draw at The Madejski Stadium later on in the season.

The boss

Tony Mowbray: Sunderland were dealt a blow at the end of August with the surprise departure of former manager Alex Neil, who left the club to join Championship rivals Stoke City. Neil was replaced by former Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray, who signed a two-year deal at The Stadium of Light.

Mowbray started his managerial career with Scottish side Hibernian before securing his first managerial role in the English Football League with West Bromwich Albion. Mowbray guided the Baggies back to the Premier League in 2008, winning the Championship title, however they finished bottom of the Premier League in their first season back. Mowbray then had another spell north of the border, this time with Celtic, but didn’t quite last a year with the Scottish giants.

Celtic v Hearts Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Yorkshireman has also had spells at Middlesbrough and Coventry City, before a five-year spell with Blackburn where he guided the side back to the Championship in his first full season. He went on to create a period of league stability for Rovers, who finished eighth in the league last season.

Mowbray was known to have his Blackburn side playing possession-based football. However, they switched to a more counter-attacking style last season.


Sunderland have seen seven players join the club this summer as they look to re-establish themselves in the second tier. Defenders Daniel Ballard and Aji Alese have joined from Arsenal and West Ham United respectively, whilst midfielder Abdoullah Ba and winger Jewison Bennette have joined from Le Havre and Herediano.

Striker Leon Dajaku and winger Jack Clarke have also signed permanent deals after loan spells with the Black Cats last season. Three attackers have been signed on loan, with Ellis Simms (Everton), Amad Diallo (Man Utd) and Edouard Michut (PSG) all joining for the season.

Goalkeeper Lee Burge, defender Arbenit Xhemajli, winger Aiden McGeady and striker Will Grigg all left Sunderland on free transfers this summer.

Striker Ross Stewart, who was Sunderland’s top scorer last season, has been ruled out of action for up to 10 weeks with a thigh injury. Defenders Dennis Cirkin (hamstring) and Dan Ballard (foot) will also miss out on this Wednesday’s game.

Expected line-up

Patterson, Wright, Batth, O’Nien, Evans, Gooch, Neil, Clarke, Pritchard, Diallo, Simms

Key player

Alex Pritchard: Midfielder Pritchard joined Sunderland in July 2021, having been released by Huddersfield Town after three and a half years at The Terriers. He started his youth career with West Ham before joining the Tottenham Hotspur youth set-up in 2009.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by John Early/Getty Images

Pritchard had a series of loan moves whilst with Spurs, but made two appearances for the North London side, with his debut coming in 2014. Pritchard sealed a permanent move to Championship side Norwich City in 2016 before joining Huddersfield Town in a big-money move in 2018.

The 29-year old scored four goals and had 12 assists in his first season with Sunderland, and already has two assists to his name this season. He is a creative midfielder who usually plays in the number 10 role and is a strong set-piece taker.

One to watch

Elliot Embleton: Midfielder Embleton is a product of the Sunderland youth system and has been with the club since he was eight years old. The Durham-born midfielder made his Black Cats debut in 2017. He then had loan spells at Grimbsy and Blackpool before returning to Sunderland where he became more of a regular member of the first-team squad.

He scored nine goals last season, including the first of Sunderland’s two goals in last season’s play-off final. Embleton has also represented England at every level from under-17 to under-20. The talented midfielder has strong technical skills, a good eye for a pass and likes to shoot from range.