Jack Ross on what he wants from new defensive addition as he seeks to address key Sunderland issue

Jack Ross admits he wants to add greater physicality to his Sunderland squad this month, and that is likely to start in defence.

Friday, 4th January 2019, 7:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 7:28 am

Ross has a deal set up for a new defender that he expects to complete next week.

Yesterday, he was linked with a move for Sheffield United defender Ben Heneghan, who is currently on loan at Blackpool, though Stewart Donald has since distanced the club from a move.

Ross says he wants the new addition, likely to be a loan, to compete for a starting spot.

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“We want another option but certainly someone who can come in and play,” Ross said.

“If it was just about cover, we would look probably at just utilising what we have in the squad and the U23s.

“So Jack Bainbridge, for example, who has done really well in the Checkatrade Trophy when he’s played.

“He’s one of those though who could do with more regular first team football to be judged properly.

“So we want someone who can challenge the players and play in the first team.”

“It’s something that Tony [Coton] and I identified in the close season and even the pre-season period, addressing the physicality in the squad,” Ross added.

“There’s got to be give and take within it, because I do believe in terms of how we play at times we’re as good as anyone in the league, in terms of the manner in which we play.

“But we do lack physicality throughout the team.

“Even at centre-back, which is no slight on Tom [Flanagan] and Jack [Baldwin] because they’ve coped admirably in the main.

“But it’s not their main strength and I think having some greater physicality in that defensive line would be helpful.

“Especially as Tom can play full back and if he did play there then he would be a big full back.
“If you look at some teams we’ve played recently, Blackpool on Saturday, they’ve got a full back who is probably bigger and more physical than both of our centre-backs.

“So that different option could be important as the season develops.”

Ross has been pleased with Flanagan and Baldwin’s contributions but is also conscious of the need to be overly dependent on their form and fitness.

“We’ve relied heavily on them to play week in, week out,” he said.

“It’s been a new challenge for them to an extent.

“Playing centre back in a back four is new to Tom to a degree.

“It’s been good for him and I know that from an international perspective Michael O’Neill is keen to see how he develops in that role.

“His contribution has been good. As I’ve said with a lot of things, it’s not perfect but you certainly can’t complain, bringing him in and what he’s brought has been good.

“We say it all the time, but we want to come out of January stronger than we went into it. Defensively that’s the case as well.”