Mike Dodds has delivered his final pre-match press conference of the season as Sunderland prepare to close out their 2023-24 campaign against Sheffield Wednesday at the Stadium of Light.

Dodds will complete the 13th game of this his second interim spell in charge of the club this season against a Wednesday side who still need one point to secure their Championship safety for next season. 

Dodds has endured a difficult period since replacing Michael Beale in the dugout, something he addressed to the media ahead of his final game in charge where he will come up against a man in Danny Rohl who has been strongly linked with taking over on Wearside this summer.

Here is everything Dodds had to say on his time in charge, what the club need this summer and the search for a permanent head coach:


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Are you relieved, pleased or excited the season is nearly over?

Excited because it’s got the potential to be a really good day, if we execute what we need to execute. I’m hoping it’s going to be a really good game because they’ve got everything to play for and so have we within the context of sending 40,000 home on a Bank Holiday weekend with a smile on their face. So the overriding feeling is one of excitement.


How do you look back at your 13 games?

I’m really proud of what I’ve done. I appreciate I’ll be judged by winning and losing but I’ve had a huge amount to deal with, which a lot of people won’t appreciate. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, but I’ve had quite a difficult hand to deal with in terms of player availability, in terms of fixtures and in terms of one or two things internally, so I’m really proud of what I’ve done because it was a completely different experience for me.

Earlier in the season I took the team for three games and things went really well – the transition was a really smooth transition. This period has been a lot clunkier in terms of trying to get the group to where we want them to get to. From a personal standpoint, it will stand me in good stead whatever my future looks like.

There’s a tinge of disappointment because I know how important this club is to thousands and thousands of people and the type of character I am I want to try and please as many of those people as I can, but I’m not going to tell you the ins and outs of everything that goes on every single day. I’ll go home on Saturday evening really proud of the things I’ve had to deal with.


Is it unfair because people will only draw conclusions from the ‘win’ and ‘loss’ column?

To a degree. Anyone who will look just at the win, lose and draws – so if it’s a prospective employer for instance and that’s how they recruit a coach or head coach, with all due respect, I don’t want to work for them. Like anything, it depends what lens you are looking through. You can find stats to pull out positives, you can find stats to pull out negatives – that’s football. A lot of the best managers at the highest level do that. That’s just not my character, I think I’m a well-rounded, humble guy and I’ve tried my hardest never to sit here and make excuses when I could have done.

The facts are I’ve lost more than I’ve won and that’s something I’ll have to stomach. But I go back to my point; there’s been a huge amount I’ve had to deal with and you can have the most experienced manager sat here and I’m not sure what they could have done differently.


Is there anything you’d have done differently?

The first game [against Swansea] was a real disappointment because I tried to run before I could walk and that was a huge eye-opener for me in terms of where the group was at physically and mentally. I couldn’t do what I did last time so I had to strip one or two things back and revaluate where the squad was so that was a huge eye-opener.

The Blackburn game is one I have a huge amount of disappointment over because I didn’t see that coming and, although I love the group and we should be really proud of the group we’ve got, it hurts when you come away and you feel like you’ve done everything from your perspective and it hasn’t been executed on the other side. There’s a few examples I’m really proud of, but they’re probably the two [I could have done differently].


Do those games show you the limitations of the group?

I wouldn’t say it shows the limitations of the group, I think it shows the youth in the group and it’s not just in football, it’s life. Young people make mistakes. We’ve all been there as adults, everyone in this room has made mistakes. The difference with footballers is they make it so publicly and they get scrutinised for it where the ‘average person’ will make a mistake and they will have an opportunity to reflect on it and it won’t get so scrutinised. It’s the same for me as a young coach.

I have quite clearly made some mistakes. I took the team two-and-a-half-years ago when I was nowhere near ready and I made a load of mistakes but it was probably the best thing to happen to me. Some of the things that have happened during this period will be the best thing to happen to me but the fans don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to hear the players are naïve at times, they don’t want to hear they’re a young group and that we need to come through these periods. They just want to win, which is more than acceptable.

What it probably has highlighted, from the Blackburn game to the Leeds game, for example, if you look at all the games really they’ve been by one goal apart from the Southampton game – which I was comfortable with because we got the game back to 2-2 and I felt we had two options; shut up shop or use the momentum in the game which was going in our favour. They made three Premier League substitutions with £20million-plus substitutes and win the game 4-2. All the other games apart from the Blackburn game have been one goal. There have been margins within the games.

The group is more or less there, it’s the margins, which is something we’ve spoken about to the players this week. If they want to get to where they want to get to, individually, or if they’re going to get us to where we want to get to, it’s the fine margins they have to improve upon because that’s what sets the difference between the teams at the top, the teams in the middle and the teams at the bottom.


What would you say the club needs to do in terms of the team? Is it more experience?

I wouldn’t say experience – I know the experience line is something that’s a bit of a talking point. Look, there may be a need for one or two experienced heads and when I say experience I’m not saying 30-plus, I’m talking about 200-300 league games in the Championship. That could probably be something they could look at.

For me it’s depth. We’re one of the youngest teams, if not the youngest team, in the EFL – something we are all on board with. But when you lose three or four players through injury or suspension, and at times it was more than three or four, and you’re relying on under-18s and under-21s to sit on the bench, you’re getting even younger. So, for me, it would be more depth.

On the flipside of that, I’m sure if the next head coach doesn’t have the level of injuries we’ve had this season people won’t be talking about depth because if you look at the injury room you can pick a really strong team.


Will Dennis Cirkin be available?

Dennis won’t be involved, no. He’s trained with the group and, as I said a couple of weeks ago, it’s that risk and reward; do we look to involve him and speed the process up a little bit from the perspective of just trying to get him on the pitch? Or do we accept the fact it’s probably a couple of weeks too early? So Dennis won’t be involved. But he seem to be going in the right direction and fingers crossed everything will be set for him to have a really strong pre-season and show everyone what a wonderful footballer he is.


Sheffield Wednesday have something to play for which may bring an edge to the game?

Definitely, and I’ve spoken to the players about that. It’s got the potential to be a really good day in terms of the absolute minimum we can offer the fans is a good Bank Holiday weekend and a win to go away into the summer. I think they have to try and get a result, I know destiny is in their own hands but they have to try and get a result. I don’t think they can rely on other results. I haven’t been in that situation but I can imagine if I was the head coach of Sheffield Wednesday I’d be fully focused on trying to get a result from the game and hopefully that will open things up for a good game. I don’t see them being overly aggressive in the opening period of the game. In my personal opinion, having watched them, I think they’ll be quite reserved and see how the game unfolds. But as the game unravels I expect it to, hopefully, be a little bit more exciting than what we’ve seen in previous weeks.


Is the most important thing that lessons are learnt from this season?

100 per cent. I went to a supporters group a couple of weeks ago and I said I think the players have to reflect because the reality is some of the players haven’t performed to the level that they did do previously. I’ve got to do some reflection. I’m not going to shoulder the responsibility of the full season but at the same time, I worked really closely with Tony in terms of preparing the team for the best part of 15 months and I could be really naïve and say I worked with Tony and we got to the play-offs but I also worked with Tony and he got the sack. So there’s a tinge of disappointment with that period. Mick then obviously came in and for whatever reason that didn’t work but I worked with Mick. So there’s a reflection of me and what could I have done and what do I need to do in the future to get better? Then there’s also a reflection from the football club in terms of there being a number of decisions this year where some have gone right, some haven’t gone right, so I do think there are three stages of reflection; myself, the players and the football club.

I do feel this season will be a huge foundation and caveat to go forward because last year was wonderful, it was amazing and everyone loved it. But at the same time it felt a bit like Disney World and ‘How are we here? How has this happened?’ This year, I’ve always said I think failure is one of the most important ingredients for success. I appreciate fans don’t want to hear that, I wouldn’t want to hear that if I’m a fan, but if we don’t reflect and don’t improve for next year then it’s not going to be a happy place. So we have to reflect this summer and we have to improve next year.


When do you think we’ll see a new head coach?

You know as much as I do. My focus has been on the team. I felt with the group, at times during my period, it’s been one step forward and two steps back in terms of we have a solid performance and we follow that up with a couple of ‘boring’ performances. Sometimes I think that just comes with young people, and I’m not making that as an excuse, but that’s something I won’t accept or the club won’t accept because we want to get back to the Premier League so consistency is really important.

But I’m presuming I might get an update after Saturday. I’ll wait for the people above me to update me. My focus has been purely on the games.


What would you hope the players have taken from your ideas?

I feel we’ve laid some really strong foundations in terms of the team, structurally. That’s probably taken away from the free-flowing things we’ve seen recently, but I feel the free-flowing bits can be something that can be recaptured quite easily. My biggest thing for the players is that I just hope they go away in the summer and reflect because I will take my proportion of the blame for my 13 games, the club will obviously have a reflection point but I do feel, sometimes, the players get away scot-free with it being the head coaches’ problem or the club’s problem. They’ve got to go away and reflect because some of them haven’t hit the levels they hit previously so if you have individuals who don’t hit the levels they’ve hit previously, commons sense will say you don’t get the same results in terms of points on the board.

But I go back to my point; I’m really proud of some of the stuff I’ve done internally with the group and hopefully we’ll see some of that work next year with the new head coach.