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Sunderland’s predicted starting XI if Danny Cowley is hired

This is a testing time for Sunderland owner Stewart Donald.

He is on the verge of selling his majority stake in the club but at the same time, he is also desperately trying to find a new manager for the Black Cats.

Only a few days ago they finally gave Phil Parkinson the boot and since then, a number of men have been linked with the vacant hot seat.

Whether it’s Sol Campbell, Gus Poyet or Lee Johnson, there have been plenty of names branded about.

One we haven’t mentioned is Danny Cowley, someone who openly revealed their interest in the job this week.

“Sure. Sunderland are a huge football club with a wonderful history. For whatever reason they find themselves in League One but we will just have to wait and see,” Cowley said when questioned about his interest in the Mackems.

So, if Donald does move to appoint the former Huddersfield boss, how could Sunderland shape up in terms of their starting XI? Here’s what we’ve predicted.

The first thing to note is the change in formation. Parkinson religiously stuck with a three-man defence this season but Cowley is someone who has favoured a 4-2-3-1.

That was his mantra at Huddersfield and consequently, we assume he’d bring that to the Stadium of Light.

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One of his most interesting tactics, especially at Lincoln, was wing-play. He would look towards the full-backs and wide players to create the play and offer the most going forward. As a result, we’re tipping the more attacking Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume to shuffle slightly further back.

That being said, their responsibilities would largely remain the same – to provide impetus in the final third.

Because Cowley likes natural wingers, we reckon that Lynden Gooch will get a chance on the left-hand side once he’s back from injury. Interestingly, we’ve also picked Aiden O’Brien to return from the wilderness.

Since signing last summer he has started just four times for Sunderland. However, he possesses natural pace and could enjoy a rejuvenation if Cowley decides to play through his wingers as he did at Lincoln.

Another way he developed his side was playing with a target man.

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Sunderland's manager Jack Ross gestures during the Portsmouth match, August 2018

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Although John Akinde had willing runners beside him at the Imps, getting him to hold it up and bring others into play was valuable. Thus, Charlie Wyke should prosper under Cowley as he did with Parkinson.

The striker already has eight goals this season.

The remaining change is Lee Burge coming in for Parkinson favourite Remi Matthews, someone who also played under the ex-Sunderland boss at Bolton.

Meanwhile, Will Grigg could completely rediscover himself in Sunderland hire THIS manager…