Mowbray ready for raised ‘expectations’ next season
Tony Mowbray says he knows expectations will be significantly higher on Wearside next season, and while he believes there should be a lot of optimism about the road ahead, he has already warned that competition for promotion will be fierce.
Sunderland surpassed all expectations in making it to the Championship play-offs, and did so playing a hugely attractive brand of football.
A crucial summer of recruitment now lies ahead and while the focus will again be primarily on recruiting young talent that can grow the club, the head coach is hopeful that the group will be stronger for the new season.
Fans will hope for a similarly successful outcome and Mowbray says work is needed to ensure that can come to fruition.
"The perception I feel when I meet people is that, generally, the fanbase has been pretty pleased with the season that we've had and yet I do know that moving into next year it probably won't be enough to just be in the top half of the table," Mowbray said.
"Especially if we invest and we've got a centre forward whose job it is to bang in the goals [fit and available], and we keep adding the right players to the group, there should be an expectation that Sunderland, with 40,000 supporters, is going
to be strong in the division...
"And especially at a time when there have been a lot of clubs in the division having to take their budget down over recent years because of FFP and such like.
"In my mind, there is a fair bit of scope here to take the budgets gradually up and to try and keep bringing in players who can create that expectation [of what we can achieve], both within the squad and the fanbase.
"We want to get to the point where the fanbase aren't just happy with nice football, they want us to get promoted and they look at the squad and the teams around us and expect us to get promoted.
"Of course, that brings pressure as a head coach, but somewhere down the line, that's where we need to be."
Mowbray is upbeat about his team's prospects, but after the play-off defeat to Luton Town, also noted that there could be some heavyweights in the division next year, backed by parachutepayment funds.
He said: "I'm looking at the Premier League now and Southampton...if [Nathan] Tella goes back and [Will] Smallbone goes back, Adam Armstrong scored 29 goals the last time he played in the Championship. They have a squad that could rip the division up.
"We have to keep building and improving if we want to be a force. I can reel off a list of the teams that are going to be hoping to win promotion from the Championship next season – Southampton are going to be massively strong, and then if it’s Leicester (City), Leeds (United) or Everton, what about them? You’ve got Ipswich Town coming the other way...
"Then you’ve got West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Middlesbrough and one of Luton or Coventry (City). It’s a really tough league, and we’ve done incredibly well to be in and around and above some of those teams this season. We need to keep getting better to do it again."