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James Hunter

Tony Mowbray admits his 'disappointment' as Sunderland miss out on deadline day striker targets

Tony Mowbray insists he would rather see out the season with the players he wants than have been panicked into signing an unsuitable striker on deadline day. Sunderland were looking to bring in another frontman before Tuesday's 11pm deadline after losing top scorer Ross Stewart to a season-ending Achilles injury last weekend.

The Black Cats were chasing multiple targets but, when the transfer window closed, no new striker had arrived which means they will see out the season with just one out-and-out centre-forward in the shape of Joe Gelhardt, who signed on loan from Leeds United last week less than 48 hours before Stewart suffered his injury. "We looked at every market, believe me," said Mowbray.

"We looked at the free agents and discussed whether we think it is right or appropriate at this moment. We're happy to go with what we've got - I say happy, we worked really hard [to bring in another striker].

READ MORE: Kristjaan Speakman insists Sunderland's failure to land a striker was not due to lack of ambition

"A lot of work went into it and we were left disappointed, really, at missing out on some of the targets we had. I know supporters will be disappointed because they'd all like us to be like Chelsea, I suppose, and just keep bringing more players in.

"But there is a plan. we are trying to create an identity and a culture, and we need to bring in the right players. Personally, I would prefer to go into these games with the players that we want rather than thinking 'gosh, we need a number nine' and then bring any number nine in, because if he doesn't fit the culture and the identity...

"I think it's more important to keep doing what we're trying to do rather than just bringing any striker in. As a coach, you get judged on your team so if we bring someone in who was not planned or that we don't believe is right for the team, and the team doesn't do very well, I'll be judged on that regardless of whether he was our target or not.

"I'd rather work with the players that we have identified, and then get judged on the team that we produce."

Gelhardt is set to make his Sunderland debut in tomorrow's Championship game against Millwall at The Den, and Mowbray believes he will thrive on the resposibility that comes with knowing he is now the main man. He said: "He's just excited and he wants to play.

"When I discussed it [the move] with him, he knew [at that stage] we had Ross Stewart and wondered if he was going to play enough football. But I told him that if his talent was what I believe it is, we'll find a way - we'll play two up front, or whatever.

"For Joffy [Gelhardt], he will now feel he is going to play. We are going to be relying on him to score goals, he has to get into the box - and yet he does want to come to the ball and show how direct and strong and powerful he is.

"We're all excited to see how he fits in with Amad and Pat [Roberts] and Jack [Clarke]. We need to keep him fit, strong and robust.

"It seems a negative that we go into this period with one out-and-out striker, yet if that one out-and-out striker knows that he's the man and takes on the burden and scores goals, he'll be a huge success. The negative with one striker is that at any given moment it could be a disaster for us, yet we have been through that already - we had a long time without any strikers [when Stewart and on-loan Everton man Ellis Simms were injured] yet we didn't fall off a cliff, we won some games, we scored some goals, and we can do that again.

"In that period, Amad hadn't made the breakthrough into being established. He was still a bit shy and quiet around the building, but he is now a confident kid who knows he is important to the team so he can play high up the pitch if required. I don't sit here thinking we are really short."

Sunderland will take defender Dennis Cirkin and midfielder Alex Pritchard with them to Millwall. Pritchard is back in training after recovering from the calf problem that has kept him out since the end of December, while Cirkin has been out since Boxing Day with a hip injury.

Mowbray said: "They have joined in all week. They are just about there.

"They are both coming with us and jumping on the coach."

Mowbray will be cautious with Pritchard, bearing in mind his latest injury was a recurrence of a previous problem and his comeback had lasted a matter of minutes. "In Pritch's mind, we will talk after today," said Mowbray.

"If he gets through today, he will have had a full week's training. If possible, we don't want to repeat what he did last time when he came back a day or two early because he was so desperate to get back involved.

"In our minds, he is front-end of the pitch type of footballer and the more of us we have got of them available.

"Hopefully he is ready to go again."

There is a doubt over whether new signing Isaac Lihadji travels as he is due to attend a meeting this afternoon to finalise some paperwork concerning a work permit, but deadline day addition from Everton Joe Anderson will travel Lynden Gooch is still two or three weeks away from a return from injury, while Luke O'Nien will be absent as he completes his three-match suspension.


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