The interesting Tony Mowbray answer that explained his key Sunderland challenge - and long-term vision

At Birmingham City there was a subtle but slight shift in approach from Sunderland.

With their injury issues worsening and knowing that the hosts are a side suited to winning games without seeing much of the ball, Tony Mowbray opted to switch it up.

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Though they had to come through a late wave of pressure as the hosts went ever-more direct, the result was three valuable points just as the pressure was beginning to rise following a hugely disappointing defeat to Cardiff City.

It was an interesting shift because the day before, Mowbray had given an insight into his short, medium and long-term plans that had, it transpired, dropped a hint at his game plan for the night. The exchange began as he urged the need for patience with Jewison Bennette, a player who he rates highly but who still has a lot of work to do in developing the tactical understanding and consistency to start games regularly.

The head coach has been hired, he explained, to bring together a 'triangle' of goals: developing youngsters, a playing style, and winning games.

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It's not always an easy approach, and getting the balance right from week to week is not straightforward.

"You have to win games, there's always that pressure in football and management," he explained.

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Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray at St Andrews

"When I went to Blackburn we lost, I think it was three out of fifteen, but we got relegated even though we beat Brentford on the final day of the season. But then we went on a journey where we brought through players like Scott Wharton, John Buckley, Hayden Carter, bringing in a young Bradley Dack from Gillingham... I take a lot of joy in them winning at West Ham in the Cup. That's how I think you grow a team and I had time to do it.

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"At Sunderland, is there the same level of patience? It's different when you have 40,000 every week desperate for their team to do well, though of course when it's a team that won the Premier League not so long ago there's some pressure there, too.

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"There's a balance between development, winning and forming an identity. I'd like to create a team that controls the ball and is the better team. That doesn't always win you the game, sometimes the team without the ball for most of the game can win by putting it forward, giving the ball back almost to press and nick the ball back to score.

"There's lots of ways to play, I'd like to help the club create an identity of being good with the ball, dominating possession but finding a way to develop players and win games along the way.

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"It fits with what I think I'm about, but of course there are going to peaks and troughs along the way with young footballers."

Through a combination of time to work on the training ground and the return of key players to fitness, Mowbray feels we’ll see a clearer picture of his Sunderland side after the break. But don’t be surprised if there are tweaks along the way; he knows winning will always be the most important part of the triangle.