Tony Mowbray has this upbeat Sunderland message after challenging week ends with deserved draw
Tony Mowbray told his Sunderland players that they 'aren't far away' from competing at the top end of the Championship after they dug in to secure a point against Luton Town on Saturday.
Mowbray says that a positive summer of recruitment and getting key players from injury can leave everyone at the club excited about what can be achieved moving forward.
Mowbray was reflecting on a week in which Sunderland have taken four points from three games, a return that has in all likelihood ended their play-off challenge but in which they have competed against a trio of sides with major promotion ambitions.
Saturday's game was one of few real chances and Luton had looked relatively comfortable before Amad won a controversial penalty, but there was little between the two teams.
"We'd have been so disappointed not to take something, two decent performances against two pretty good teams," Mowbray said.
"We matched them today, I thought. First half against Sheffield United, yeah alright, they looked a good team and you felt why they were second in the league. We couldn't really get close to them.
"Today there wasn't really any stage where I thought, 'we're going to have to hang on here'. They're very good at what they do, they have an identity and watching their games building up to this, they do it well. They're pretty direct but that's not a negative, they're good at it and they keep the ball around your box. They're good in midfield and they're athletic at the back, I had Amari'i Bell at Blackburn playing left back and now he's the left of a back three, that's the athleticism they have.
"They're a good side but I didn't sit there thinking, they're miles better than us and that's why they're in the play-offs and we're not. The bigger picture for me is that in the summer we get recruitment right and we get players back [from injury] that we know are important to our team. I'd like to get to the point where if we draw 1-1 with Luton Town next year - that's if they're not promoted - we're all really disappointed, because we've got really good players and a team that we think should be winning.
"With the injuries etc that we have at the moment, I'm not sure I can sit here and think that. That feels negative but it's not to be, it's just that we've an inexperienced side still learning to play at the level against a team that knows how they play and has a lot of players who've been at the level a long time.
"I think we'll be so much better in time, I was saying to the staff near the end of the window, 'can you imagine Stewart, Gelhardt, Diallo, Clarke...'. We're missing a real ingredient of that and the focal point at the top - let's keep going, be really competitive in every game for the rest of the season and then try and get excited by our recruitment and players back fit."
The Black Cats now have a two-week break before travelling to Burnley.