Are Sunderland ready for the League One campaign? Jack Ross positive despite '˜challenging' summer
Are Sunderland ready for Charlton Athletic?
That is the question on everybody’s lips as the Black Cats prepare to kick off their League One campaign.
It has been a stressful, tumultuous, often uplifting summer.
The pace of change has been dizzying and with less than a week to go before the competitive action begins, there remains much work to be done.
So does Jack Ross believe Sunderland are ready?
It is a difficult question to answer.
It has been a challenging period for the Black Cats boss, low on numbers, dealing with players not returning for training, some returning but wanting away.
Rebuilding a squad almost entirely from scratch while implementing a new playing philosophy.
For Ross, there are two answers to the question.
His squad is not where he wants to be, but those players in it have been superb in their application.
That will give him and the Sunderland support cause for encouragement.
“Truthfully, no [where he wants to be].
“I think this will probably be the most challenging pre-season period of my managerial career, for however long I’m in this kind of job, for a number of reasons.
“But what I would say is that the group I’ve had have been fantastic, so responsive. We’ve been low on numbers, a young number, but they’ve responded well to everything that we’ve asked them to do.
“I think their progress has been reflected in the results and the performances, because Middlesbrough was a big test for us.
“You look at our side and how young it was, the lack of depth, to come and produce that brave performance is a reflection of how they feel about themselves, I think they feel good.”
“So there’s two answers to that really, ideally I’d like to be further ahead in terms of preparation for the whole squad but on the flip side, I’ve been delighted with the response I’ve had. “
The Black Cats followed up their 6-0 win over St Mirren with a good showing against a strong Middlesbrough line-up on Friday night.
Ross was pleased with the display and says it is up to him to build on the feel-good factor in the squad.
He said: “There’s been a lot more positives than negatives in the last few games, I’ve spoken about that steady improvement.
“Friday was the biggest test for us, we tried to have a thought process behind our pre-season programme whereby there was a build-up in the calibre of opponent. That was reflected in Middlesbrough’s line-up and the players responded to that brilliantly.
“There’s certainly a lot to be positive about, I think the players feel good and that matters in football.
“They’ve got that at the moment and it is up to me to harness that and keep growing it.”