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Opposition Lowdown: High-Flying Sunderland

Reading make the long trip north to face Sunderland. Join us as we take a look at the opposition.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/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 playoffs, 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 ninth place, having seen 11 wins, nine draws and nine losses so far. Their recent form has been relatively strong, having only seen one loss in the last five games, while winning two and drawing two.

The two sides faced each other in September, with The Black Cats beating The Royals 0-3 at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, after two goals from Patrick Roberts and one from Jack Clarke.

The boss

Tony Mowbray: Mowbury replaced the outgoing Alex Neil in August last year, after he left for Championship rivals Stoke City, less than a month into the season.

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. The Yorkshireman has also had spells at Middlesbrough and Coventry, before a five-year spell with Blackburn Rovers 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 switched to a more counter attacking style last season.


Sunderland managed to bring in four players during the January transfer window, but lost loanee striker Ellis Simms after he was recalled by his parent club Everton.

Coming in the door at the Stadium of Light were West Ham midfielder Pierre Ekwah, forward Isaac Lihadji who joined from Lille, Everton defender Joe Anderson and Leeds striker Joe Gelhardt, who signed on loan.

Striker Ross Stewart, who was Sunderland’s top scorer last season, has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an achilles injury. Defender Dennis Cirkin will miss out after suffering a concussion in last week’s clash with Millwall. Niall Huggins, Elliot Embleton, Corry Evans and Lynden Gooch will also miss out due to injury.

Expected line-up

Patterson, Hume, Ballard, Batth, Alese, Neil, Michut, Roberts, Diallo, Clarke, Gelhardt

Key player

Patrick Roberts: Winger Roberts joined Sunderland in January last year after leaving Premier League Man City. He started his youth career at AFC Wimbledon but joined Fulham in 2013, where he went on to sign his first professional contract. He made his Fulham debut in 2014 and went on to make 22 appearances for the club before securing a big-money move to Man City in 2015.

He spent seven years in Manchester but only made three appearances for the club. During his time with City he played on loan for six different clubs: Celtic, Girona, Norwich City, Middlesbrough, Derby County and Troyes.

He initially signed for Sunderland on a six-month deal but secured an extension to his contract last summer. Roberts has made 46 appearances for The Black Cats, scoring six goals, two of which came against Reading in last September’s game. The 26-year-old winger usually plays on the right-hand side and is a strong dribbler and passer of the ball.

One to watch

Joe Gelhardt: Striker Gelhardt joined Sunderland on loan from Premier League Leeds United in the January transfer window. He came through the youth ranks at Wigan Athletic and made his debut for The Latics in 2017. Gelhardt secured a move to Premier League Leeds in August 2020 but had to wait a year before making his debut for the club in September 2021.

He has made 41 appearances for Leeds, mainly off of the bench, scoring twice. The Liverpool-born striker has represented England at under-16 through under-20 level, scoring 15 times while wearing a Three Lions shirt. The 20-year-old plays in the centre forward role and likes to dribble with the ball, running at defenders.