Sunderland boss outlines his Alex Pritchard plans and admits summer transfer surprise
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Tony Mowbray says he will hold talks with Alex Pritchard over the international break in order to help the player draw a line under a summer in which the attacking midfielder has been the subject of significant transfer speculation.
Sunderland would not have stood in Pritchard's way had a suitable bid arrive and he enters the final year of his contract, and the uncertainty played a part in his absence from the starting XI in the opening month of the Championship campaign.
He has continued to show his class from the bench, however, and was again superb in helping his side during the latter stages of the emphatic win over Southampton.
With Danny Batth and Lynden Gooch departing, the 30-year-old will add valuable experience to Mowbray's group over the coming months.
The head coach will welcome the chance to utilise his obvious quality but has also made clear that he has a responsibility to create opportunities for the squad's younger players along the way.
"The discussion over Pritch, the quality - you see with your eyes what I see with mine," Mowbray said.
"He gets the ball, he sticks it through someone's legs, he hits a 40-yard diagonal ball, and we're off away breaking in on goal and not everybody can do that.
"We have to get that balance of how the team looks, I think. Yet you can't stifle Chris Rigg or Abdoullah Ba or Jewison Bennette, we need to give them gametime if they are ever going to grow into the footballers that this club hope they are going to be.
"I can't constantly think I have to play Pritchard, I have to play Dack - these kids need a game.
"I hope you feel what I feel - I've told Kristjaan, the club know, I have to love my players." he added.
"They have to feel that I care about their lives and career and kids and wives and families. I care about them. That's why I'm happy for Danny Batth. If they're not going to play, they should go and get on with their career. It's the same with Goochy.
"What a decision for Gooch to leave this club, it's unbelievable. But if he gets more security and thinks he has a better chance of playing then good luck to him.
"Alex, we will have chats. We have lots of chats already to be honest. What a good footballer he is.
"I'm just amazed the phone hasn't rang as much as it might have done because he's a wonderful footballer. We have to try and maximise his time on the pitch but also grow the young players that I'm talking about.
"Where's he going to play? Is he going to play behind the striker? Well we might play two strikers, we might play three strikers, we might need only two sitting midfielders. I have to do this with Dack and Pritchard and try and fit Roberts back in the team, I've just laughed with him coming up the stairs: “It's going to be tough in two weeks time, Pat, I can't change that team."
"Let's wait and see."
Competition for places in attacking midfield increased further still on deadline day with the arrival of Adil Aouchiche, though the youngster will need time to get up to speed.