IT hasn't necessarily gone to plan and there have been some rough setbacks along the way, but for Mike Dodds a third spell in interim charge of Sunderland has provided real clarity as he looks to the future.

For he's now in absolutely no doubt that he wants to go on to become a permanent head coach. When and where is unclear - and Dodds is in no rush - but his mind is very much made up.

It would be understandable if he'd drawn the opposite conclusion from this current testing stint in the Stadium of Light dugout. His nine games in charge have so far brought just one Sunderland win and the headline result was the 5-1 hammering at home to Blackburn. But dig a little deeper and it's easy to see the signs of Sunderland encouragement under Dodds.

They've kept four clean sheets in their last five games and as humiliating as the Blackburn thumping was, it's the only defeat the Black Cats have suffered in that time.

Dodds oversaw two disappointing defeats to Doncaster and Cheltenham in his first spell as caretaker in 2022, but led Sunderland to fine victories over West Brom and Leeds before losing to Bristol City when he was put in charge in December.

He took charge for a third time against a very different backdrop compared to the situation he inherited after Tony Mowbray's exit. Then, Sunderland were playing relatively well and the transition was seamless. Confidence drained away during Michael Beale's spell, as did hopes of a top six finish.

Still, it goes without saying Dodds is disappointed with results on the whole, but he believes this testing stint will be beneficial for everyone in the Sunderland dressing room in the long run, and he says events of recent weeks have served to reaffirm his desire to be a full time boss.


"I always say to young players and I would be a hypocrite if I didn't take the same stance, I think failure is the most important ingredient to success," said Dodds, whose Sunderland side head for West Brom tomorrow looking to build on the impressive midweek draw at Leeds.

"I've worked with a lot of very talented young players and people only ever see the end product, they don't see the pain that goes into the process. People only see a Chris Rigg play on a Saturday and think what a talent he is, but for Chris Rigg to get to where he's got to, he will have gone through a lot of ups and downs.

"People see Jude Bellingham and think he's this gift from God who was born to play football but the reality is there was a lot of struggle and pain. The difference in my role is my pain and struggle is public.

"I wouldn't be sat here today if I hadn't taken the Cheltenham and Doncaster games.

"I needed that kick between the legs for me to reflect and think I need to be better at this, this and this. The last spell I had I had a fortunate hand to play. The games weren't easy but taking over from Tony, it was very seamless, you have a fully fit squad to pick from. And the games went really, really well.

"But when everything is really smooth I don't think you find out a lot about yourself and I think the Blackburn game, when I sit down and reflect will be really important. The Swansea game in the first half will be as well.

"In the main there's a lot I'm happy with. I'm really thankful for those tough moments because they're the moments that will help me get to where I want to get to.

"If anything this spell that has been a lot more difficult than the previous spell has reaffirmed that this is what I want to do. The last time went a lot better but I knew it wasn't real. I took them for three games. I knew this period there would be more ups and downs and all it's done is reaffirm my belief that this is what I want to do.

"I've turned 37 so I still have a lot of time on my side, I still have a lot of people I want to learn from, and I'm not in a huge rush to do this role whether it's here or somewhere else, but I want to improve and get better."

Dodds knows as a head coach he has to roll with the punches and, just like he didn't get too distracted by the criticism after Blackburn, says he won't get ahead of himself after the spirited Leeds draw.

"I've said it a lot but I understand that if I win games I'll get praise and if I lose it's the polar opposite," he said.

"I think the circumstances to the last time I took over have been completely different and it's taken longer to get them going in the direction we went. With all the games apart from the first half of the Swansea game and the game last Monday, there have been pockets that I really liked.

"The reality is I will reflect on this period and be better for it. I think the average age of the squad in the games I've taken is 22 and I think the most experienced manager could be sat here.. you can only deal with the hand you are dealt. I'm really proud of how I've prepared the team but sometimes you need a bit of a help.

"It hasn't gone as well as I'd hoped, of course it hasn't, its something I want to do in the future but I'm not going to chase it.

"If I keep trying to improve every day, one day someone will give me the opportunity and I'm confident I can do OK at it."