Josh Scowen opens up on Sunderland spell so far, THAT nickname and why he's happy to be patient

As first impressions go, this was about as good as it got from a Sunderland midfielder.

Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 6:00 am

Josh Scowen put pen-to-paper and when asked what Sunderland fans should expect, he joked that’d be kicking plenty of opponents between now and the end of the campaign.

The comment may have been made with tongue firmly in cheek, but there was a more serious point to it, too.

One of the areas Phil Parkinson felt he needed to strengthen before the January window opened was in central midfield.

Sunderland midfielder Josh Scowen

Max Power and George Dobson had formed a settled partnership but the latter was hovering dangerously close to a suspension and at least one other option was needed.

Energy and industry were two absolutely vital attributes.

Parkinson demands significant distances are covered by his central midfielders, who are key to his philosophy of ‘locking in attacks’, pressing the opposition whilst ensuring there is not too great a vulnerability to the counter-attack.

For a midfielder affectionately nicknamed ‘the rat’, the brief was perfect.

Scowen had been told by QPR that he was free to leave and this was the right opportunity at the right time.

“The nickname started at Wycome I think, something a few of the boys called me and it stuck with me,” he said.

“I enjoy it a little bit, it’s the way I play, I like to rat around and put a few tackles in.

“I like to get amongst it, try and nick the ball. If I have to kick someone, I’ll do it.

“My game is about getting around [the pitch] and pressing the ball high.

“I spoke to the manager before I signed about what he wanted from a midfielder and I said that’s probably me down to a tee.

“So hopefully when I get in the team I can show the gaffer that and stay in for the rest of the season.”

It has been something of a surprise that Scowen has had to be so patient.

Not only has Dobson managed to avoid that expected tenth booking, Scowen’s arrival has also seen the tenacious young midfielder enjoy a spike in his form.

That competition has underlined the need for consistency and so far, Dobson has risen to it.

Scowen cuts a relaxed figure as he waits for his chance, confident that he will be ready to take it.

To that end, a strong cameo from the bench at Oxford United will have done him no harm.

Though he had featured briefly couple of weeks before, this was an appearance in which the importance of his role meant it felt like a real debut.

He showed the experience and maturity that put him at the top of Parkinson’s list.

“From what I’ve seen of George he’s been fantastic,” Scowen said.

“Him and Max, you can’t drop them when the team is winning and they’re playing well.

“It kills me a little bit obviously but it just spurs me on to get better and keep improving in training to show the gaffer what I’m all about so when the time comes that I do play, I’m ready.

“That’s the main thing, keeping fit and keeping sharp.

“It was a tough game at Oxford, the conditions were horrible but to get that half hour or so, it was nice and you really got to feel the buzz of the fans and that togetherness between them and the team,” he added.

“Every day you come in and everyone is buzzing, it makes it enjoyable and coming in to a team that’s winning is always good.

“Hopefully it can boost me as well and make me a better player.”

Scowen is here until the end of the season, but with a view to extending in the summer.

The midfielder had the chance to stay in the Championship last month and though initially he had not been seeking a move away from QPR, Sunderland’s interest changed the picture.

He is adamant that this will be a second-tier club next season and that means he is not giving too much thought to a future that will hopefully take care of itself.

Both player and manager had to be patient in January and now it is the same again for Scowen.

“It was a weird [month], pretty much since the day I got told I could leave QPR, Sunderland were there,” he said.

“At the start of the month, I thought it was pretty much done.

“As things developed it didn’t quite happen but it came back at the end of the month and I’m happy to be here.

“There was a loan in the Championship and maybe another [option] in League One, but nothing that came close to Sunderland.

“I’ve dropped down a league but I think I’ve gone to a bigger club and one that in my opinion will be back in the Championship.

“There’s nothing for me to worry about right now [on his future].

“I just want to get into the team and help this club get back into the Championship.”

Scowen’s arrival coincided with a remarkable revival on the pitch.

Sunderland’s turnaround is nevertheless nothing on what Scowen achieved last time he played in League One.

Though he jokes that he was injured when the magic began, Scowen’s Barnsley were bottom at Christmas before surging to a play-off win.

The Black Cats are in a far stronger position now, but Scowen will undoubtedly have just as big a role to play now as he ultimately did then.