Tony Mowbray names five Sunderland players with leadership qualities in Corry Evans' absence

Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray was asked about the leaders in the Black Cats' young squad.

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Tony Mowbray says Sunderland’s young squad have stepped up together and shown leadership qualities in the absence of more experienced players.

Black Cats captain Corry Evans, 33, has been sidelined since January after suffering an ACL injury, while Danny Batth and Lynden Gooch, who both captained the side last season, were allowed to leave Wearside over the summer. Luke O’Nien has led the team out for the majority of this campaign, while Dan Neil wore the captain’s armband when O’Nien was suspended against Birmingham last time out.

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“I think they've had to,” Mowbray replied when asked about younger players stepping up into leadership roles. “The club captain has been injured for a long time now. People have to step up. Dan Neil I think has stepped up amazingly well on the pitch. He's so much more vocal now. He was a quiet lad when I came in and was probably happy to be in the team, even though he played in League One a fair bit.

“We're trying to grow them, we're trying to sprinkle water on them and make them flower really and when a void is created by somebody leaving, somebody has to fill it. There are a few players. I think Trai Hume somewhere down the line can have great leadership qualities, Dan Neil in my opinion is growing fast and having opinions and a voice on the pitch.

“Jack (Clarke) has a big personality to be fair and is backing that up with his talent on the pitch. Luke O'Nien has taken the captain role and he's a different type of human being to a stereotypical football player. He's academic, very thoughtful about everything and knocks on my door or Kristjaan's (Speakman) door to discuss things. I think they're growing together is what I'm trying to say, nobody has come in and grabbed it.”

Sunderland did sign 29-year-old Bradley Dack over the summer, after he was released by Blackburn, yet the playmaker has made just six Championship appearances for the Black Cats due to injury setbacks. Still, Mowbray knows the player well, following their time together at Rovers, and believes Dack is also a positive influence in the dressing room.

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“Dack is a guy with opinions and yet if you're injured and not ready to play in the team it's very difficult to be a big personality,” Mowbray added. “I know if Dack gets himself fit at some stage and is banging in goals every week he will really show leadership qualities, but at the moment it's difficult to do that.

“All that said, I do think when I've watched the team over the last few weeks they've shown great desire and intention to win games. I think they're going in the right direction and I almost know what our team is going to perform like week to week. That gives you a confidence about your team that you know what you're going to get generally.”