Sunderland getting behind Tony Mowbray after Alex Neil's exit to Stoke City as Preston North End travel to the North East

Preston North End return from the international break this weekend to make the trip to high-flying Sunderland.
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The Black Cats are currently fifth in the Championship table and have not been derailed by losing their manager.

Former PNE boss Alex Neil was the saviour for Sunderland and won the League One play-offs with them last season, ending their time in the third tier.

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He departed the Stadium of Light shortly into the season to take the job at Stoke City, with former Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray replacing him.

Everton loanee Ellis Simms is in contention for Saturday's game against Preston North End.Everton loanee Ellis Simms is in contention for Saturday's game against Preston North End.
Everton loanee Ellis Simms is in contention for Saturday's game against Preston North End.

Neil is unsurprisingly now less popular in the North East but Mowbray has picked up where the Scot left off.

On what to expect from Sunderland, Joe Nicholson of the Sunderland Echo said: "Neil was hugely popular after getting Sunderland over the line in the play-offs last season, after taking charge when the club were in a really precarious position.

"The way he left for Stoke left a sour taste with many supporters, yet clearly he did an exceptional job during his short time on Wearside.

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“The team have continued to perform since Neil’s exit and, while it’s only been four games, there has been quite a smooth transition following Tony Mowbray’s appointment.

“While some fans may have felt underwhelmed when Mowbray was first appointed, he’s made a positive first impression. He realised that the team was playing well and there wasn’t a need to change an awful lot.

“Since then Mowbray has reacted well to multiple injury setbacks, at Reading and Watford, Mowbray found ways to play without a natural centre forward and still take four points from those two fixtures.

"It’s been a really positive start for Sunderland. They have a young squad who have more than held their own over the first ten matches, even the three games they have lost have just been by a single goal.

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"The squad does still appear light in some areas and there would be concerns if there were a few more injuries in certain positions (top scorer Ross Stewart and summer signing Dan Ballard are already facing lengthy spells on the sidelines). They have been able to cope and adapt so far though.”

Sunderland have had little problem adapting to the Championship when it comes to goals so far as they are amongst the highest scorers in the division.

Their 16 goals is over five times as many as North End have managed so far but they will be without one of their main goal threats.

Ross Stewart, who was instrumental in their promotion last season, could be out until after the World Cup though Everton loanee Ellis Simms could make a return from injury this weekend.

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Stewart has been Sunderland’s biggest goal threat but could be sidelined until the World Cup break, the Black Cats without his five goals and three assists in just seven games so far.

Simms is Sunderland’s next top scorer with three, alongside Jack Clarke who is one of a number of attacking options Mowbray has, alongside Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard.

PNE will be looking to make it seven games unbeaten against Saturday’s hosts, having won five of their last six against Sunderland.