Sunderland have ‘huge amount of upside’ which points to a positive future

Bullish Mike Dodds insisted his team are “not a million miles away from being a very good Championship side”. Ahead of Saturday’s penultimate Championship of the season, away at Watford, the club’s interim head coach reckoned the core of the squad is very much in place and it’s just a case of adding to it.

Sunderland have dropped like a stone in recent weeks and, on paper, have little left to play for this season.

What happens next season will depend on whether players depart in the summer, of course, but for now Dodds said: “We’ve got the youngest team in the EFL. Which would suggest we’ve got a lot of players with a huge amount of upside. I do think we’ve got a real core of a very good team that we feel need a little bit of support.

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“You support that core and you’re not a million miles away from being a very strong Championship side. All those assets, if we want to call players that, are all under long-term contracts. The club has a huge amount of power, that if there was any anxiety of players leaving, and if anyone did want to take our successful players, it’s going to have to be at a premium.

“In terms of that there are a lot of positives. We’re in mid table and it’s nowhere near what we want to be. There’s obviously things that haven’t gone as well as we wanted them to be but in two weeks time we will all be reflecting that next season we will have a positive season. I’m 99 per cent sure that will be the case at this club.”

Preparing for Watford, who are now under new manager Tom Cleverley, he said: “You’re watching the opposition and you’re looking at the way they train and they are all the questions we always have. And I’ve always said in this position you make one decision that comes off and you are brilliant, and you make another decision and it doesn’t quite work and you are the opposite of brilliant.

“They are all the dilemmas that someone in my position has. You always try to make the best decision but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes it does. In terms of the weekend, as I’ve always said we are not going to be experimental with anything but what we will be doing is trying to put a team out to win a game of football.

“And that will be looking at us and how we can hurt Watford and we will also be looking at Watford in terms of what are their strengths. Once we go through that process the team will get picked from that point.

Cleverly is just 34 and Dodds joked: “He makes me feel old. He obviously deserves it, they’ve won a lot of games and have definitely changed their style and gone in a very much different direction from the previous head coach.

“So he clearly has an identity in terms of how he wants his team to play. He’s obviously a legend and that helps, internally and externally in terms of that appointment.

“Ultimately he wouldn’t have got that job if he hadn’t had positive performances and positive results. It’s something I would want to do but it’s not something I’m overly chasing. There’s a lot of things I need to improve and be better at. One thing I would say I am always delighted when a young coach gets an opportunity and after Saturday I wish him all the best in the role.”

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