How a look at the history books shows that Sunderland's promotion push is still on track
Jack Ross is always keen to keep his eyes firmly fixed on the future - but a glance at Sunderland's past could offer him some encouragement ahead of the season run-in.
Much has been made of the Black Cats’ recent form, with a number of draws leading fans to panic that a promotion push may be stalling.
But the history books of the club make for positive reading on that front - with one chapter in particular offering plenty of reasons to be upbeat.
While Ross is the first Sunderland manager to lead a side in the third tier for over three decades, he can take encouragement aplenty from the form of predecessor Denis Smith.
Smith, who led the Black Cats into the 1987/88 campaign, is the only other manager in the club’s history to oversee a campaign in the third division.
And, of course, the season ended in success with the Wearsiders earning an immediate return to the second tier.
Ross is aiming to emulate those achievements this year - and will take encouragement from the fact that the current crop of Sunderland stars have a remarkably similar run of form to that of their predecessors.
At the 26-game mark, Ross’ side have picked up 52 points. That’s just three fewer than Smith’s side, who had racked up 55 points after the same number of games.
While the Sunderland side of the late 80s were sat top of the third tier after 26 games, with the current side perched in third, the minimal points difference should make encouraging reading.
And some perspective is required here - the current League One line-up is arguably much stronger than that which the Black Cats were faced with three decades ago and has undoubtedly had an effect on the current league position.
But despite that, Ross’ squad have actually lost fewer games despite their lower points total - having been defeated just twice the season compared to the three defeats suffered by Smith’s troops at the same stage in the season.
They have, however, racked up far more draws in a trend which has been a hot topic among supporters in recent days.
Another problem for the Wearsiders in recent weeks has been goals, with the side having not scored more than once in a league fixture since the clash with Bristol Rovers in mid-December.
And their tally of 47 league goals at this stage is lower than that of their predecessors, who had netted 54 times in their opening 26 games.
But that alone should not cause Ross too much concern, with his record remarkably similar to that of a side which gained promotion at the first attempt.
The signs are positive, and here’s hoping they are looking similarly as bright in May.