Tony Mowbray drops Ross Stewart fitness hint following scoring return for Sunderland
Tony Mowbray has welcomed the return of Ross Stewart to Sunderland this weekend.
The striker was last in action for the Black Cats in a 3-0 win against Rotherham United on 31 August.
Injury problems have kept him away from the team as Sunderland have been without his talismanic figure on offense for the last three months.
Stewart made an emphatic return on Saturday, scoring in the 74th minute to give 10-man Sunderland a 1-0 lead against Hull City after coming on from the bench after an hour.
Mowbray hinted that a start could be in sight for the team’s upcoming clash with Blackburn Rovers on December 26 and praised his performance in the squad.
The Sunderland boss also claimed that Elliot Embleton’s red card prevented him from making an aggressive switch to two up front, with Ellis Simms and Stewart a partnership he hopes to step onto the pitch together soon.
“The plan would have been to play two forwards against them again later in the game and stretch them and give them problems, but we never got the opportunity to do that.” said Mowbray, about The Northern Echo.
“It’s exciting to think of two forwards in this team when you find the right balance behind them.
“If you play against Amad, Roberts, Clarke and those types of players, we could be a strong team as long as we have the experience, strength, size and speed to deal with the opposition.
“Ross came and did what I saw in training and in that Rotherham game.
“[Stewart’s] a very quiet finisher. The keeper jumped thinking he was going to throw it over him but he just poked it into the ground, a class finish.
“It wouldn’t have been right to have been tempted to start Ross [at Hull] because I only told you two weeks ago that he is fit [to play against West Brom] and would sit on the bench and then he felt a little tingling.
“The right thing is to bring him back to the team. The best thing is to unload him again, but there’s a good chance he could start on Boxing Day.
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Simms and Stewart only worked together once during Mowbray’s tenure, in that win over the Millers early in the campaign.
He’ll hope to make more use of it in the second half of the season, although question marks remain over Stewart’s future at the Stadium of Light as we head into the January transfer window.
Stewart’s return is a huge boost for the team as the striker is certainly one of the club’s most important players.
His League One goal record was impressive and his tally of six goals and three assists from eight league games underscores his importance.
With his future still open, Mowbray may feel he has limited opportunities to get the best out of the Scot and could therefore be ready to test his fitness next weekend.
The Black Cats are just three points away from the play-off spots, so getting a string of good results in the hectic period ahead could be crucial to their promotion hopes.