TONY MOWBRAY has lost his job as Sunderland head coach, with the club making the surprise decision to change boss.

Mowbray leaves his job with the Black Cats sitting in ninth position in the Championship table, just three points off the play-off places.

His final game in charge was Saturday's 1-1 draw at Millwall, a result that extended the Black Cats' winless run to three matches.

The decision to dismiss Mowbray after a year-and-a-half in charge feels extremely harsh, with the former Middlesbrough, Celtic and Blackburn boss having guided Sunderland into the play-offs last season.

Mowbray has also helped develop a host of young players, helping nurture the likes of Anthony Patterson, Dan Ballard, Dan Neil and Jack Clarke, who have all blossomed under his tutelage.

However, his comments in the wake of Saturday's draw, in which he discussed the balancing act between playing the young players that were signed by sporting director, Kristjaan Speakman, and trying to achieve positive results, hinted at a tension that has been apparent throughout the majority of his reign.

Mowbray threatened to walk away after May's play-off semi-final defeat to Luton Town and has regularly made clear that he is not responsible for Sunderland's recruitment.

His assistant, Mark Venus, departs alongside him, with the pair having been appointed together after Alex Neil walked out in the early weeks of last season.

Speakman said: "All at SAFC have thoroughly enjoyed working with Tony and he is quite rightly held in high regard by our players and staff, and our supporters.

"After arriving at an uncertain time, he helped guide us to the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs and played an important role in developing our team. This was a difficult decision to make, but we remain loyal to our ambition and our strategy, and felt that now was the right moment to take this step.

"We are now focused on identifying the right candidate and we will continue to support our coaching team and players throughout the interim period.”

Sunderland chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus added: “I would like to place on record my gratitude to Tony for his hard work and commitment to Sunderland, a place where he will always be welcome.

"As custodians of our great club, we believe in our long-term strategy that we hope will ensure sustainability and success for SAFC.

"Central to that approach is a relentless demand for a high performance culture to be implemented throughout the club and the development of a strong playing identity that you, our loyal supporters, can all be proud of.

“Your continued support will also be fundamental to that progress and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Stadium of Light throughout the festive period and as we enter 2024.”

Coach Mike Dodds will be in interim charge of the Black Cats, working alongside other existing members of the coaching team.

Sunderland's next game comes on Saturday lunchtime when they host West Brom at the Stadium of Light.