Everything Tony Mowbray said about Ross Stewart, Dennis Cirkin and free agents ahead of Millwall fixture

Sunderland are preparing for this weekend’s match against Millwall at the Stadium of Light – and Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray held his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

The Black Cats were beaten 1-0 at Middlesbrough last time out, as top scorer Ross Stewart picked up a thigh injury in the warm-up.

Stewart is now set to be sidelined for at least six weeks, while defender Dennis Cirkin will also be unavailable against Millwall due to a hamstring issue.

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Millwall are a point behind Sunderland after eight games and recorded a 2-0 win over Cardiff last time out.

Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray. Picture by FRANK REID

Here’s what was said at the Academy of Light as Mowbray spoke to the media:

RECAP: Tony Mowbray press conference

Key Events

  • Sunderland face Millwall at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
  • Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray is set to held his pre-match press conference at earlier today.
  • Sunderland striker Ross Stewart has been ruled out for at least six weeks with a thigh injury.
  • Dennis Cirkin will also be sidelined for the Millwall match with a hamstring issue.
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That brings us to the end of the broadcast section of the press conference, but Mowbray has also spoken to the written press, including our reporter Phil Smith.

We’ll have more from the Black Cats boss over on the SAFC section of the Echo website.

“Millwall, if you look at the data they are very good at winning first contacts from set-plays. They are very good at winning second balls and drop downs.

“They are better than you might think with the ball when you look at the data. They are not a team in the top five or six passing stats, they are not really interested in ball retention but they put the ball in your box.

“They throw it in your box, every corner they don’t take intricate short ones, they put it in the mixer and have a lot of big lads who can head it and make first contact.

“We know the threats and I have felt the Millwall threats over the last few years.

“We have to see that off and use our technical and talented players to hopefully keep the ball away from them and get behind their backline and threaten their goal.”

“I think you’d be silly not to cast an eye over every opportunity.

“You know how this works sitting on this side of the table, the phone never stops ringing. Every agent in the country tells you who they’ve got as a free agent.

“You have to do your due diligence with all these things and the recruitment department, I’ve been in there before coming in here and they are telling me about a few agents who have passed on a few names to see if there is any relevance.”

“We did put a bounce games on the other day and played against the 18s and 23s, mixed everybody in so the likes of Jewison and Diallo could play. Ba played.

“The young kid Michut has a slight strain. I think the first few days of training were a bit more intense than what he’s used to. He didn’t play and is probably a week or two behind.

“I think you have to be careful with these young boys and we gave Amad Diallo a run out because he’s had a pre-season and is up and running a bit.

“The others we’re not so sure. Their English isn’t amazing and yet we can see the talent and how positive they are, how fast they are with the ball.

“When we feel the time is right they’ll be added and we’ll see them dripped into the team.”

Mowbray on Dennis Cirkin injury

“Dennis has got a very mild injury I would suggest.

“If we are going to err on the side of caution with Dennis there is an ideal international break coming up.

“I think rather than feeling we have to rush him back to play against Watford we will probably err on the side of caution with Dennis.”

Mowbray on Stewart injury

I say it every time I’m not a physio, I’m not a medic, and I don’t even think with all the scans they could tell you to the day when someone is going to be back.

“I don’t know Ross, is he a quick healer, is he a slow healer? I’ve been in the game a long time and some players with a very basic injury it takes them a long time to get fit and other people are fit within a week or two.

“You go by the scan, six to eight weeks, is it a week or two more, is it a week or two less?

“Let’s hope it’s the second one.”

“It’s a big blow for Ross first and foremost, and it’s a big blow for the club because he has generally been the guy on the end of the chances and sticking them in the net.

“These injuries are always an opportunity for somebody else really and collectively we have to come together and find a way to score goals.

“If we have to play slightly differently to score goals then so be it.

“The balance of the team is slightly different from having two big, strong, fast strikers at the top end to maybe one striker of that nature and a lot of technical players around them.

“We’ll try and adjust things to find the best way with the players we’ve got to be able to score goals and win games.”

Mowbray on the squad after Middlesbrough defeat

“I think they are alright. They are good.

“Every team in this league because of the nature of this league, you have to recover quickly in the Championship.

“We should have maybe been one up in the first five or six minutes and it might have been a different game. They were pretty strong.

“We were trying to react from literally two minutes before we went out, our centre-forward wasn’t playing and the tactical balance of our team altered quite dramatically to be honest.

“When you think of Patrick’s qualities and assets compared to Ross’ qualities and assets they are totally different.

“We probably feel we could have got something out of the game but we have to put that behind us pretty quickly.”

How Millwall are shaping up

Millwall are a point behind Sunderland and sit 14th in the table after eight games.

Gary Rowett’s side had lost three matches in a row before beating Cardiff 2-0 on Saturday, courtesy of second-half goals from Charlie Cresswell and Benik Afobe.

Captain Shaun Hutchinson and winger Tyler Burey both picked up injuries in that match and look set to miss the trip to Wearside.

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