The post-match Sunderland interview that showed Jack Ross has a team of leaders and characters

It is as true in football as it is in life that people will always be happy to tell you what they got right.

Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 11:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 11:27 am
SAFC 0-0 SCFC SAFC (4-3 on pens) 04-09-2018. The Stadium of Light . Picture by FRANK REID

What they got wrong tends to be a tougher topic.

So while a subsequent morale-boosting win over Rochdale clearly helped, it was nevertheless encouraging to hear Tom Flanagan pick apart Sunderland’s wretched performance at Burton Albion both bluntly and eloquently.

Clearly, he had not been alone.

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In both the dressing room post-match and at the Academy of Light in the days after the game, Flanagan said that the team ‘had pointed fingers’ and accepted that their work-rate had been good enough.

That they performed cohesively and effectively days later looks like a very positive indication of the character within the squad.

There is a unity (easier to forge when winning games, admittedly), but also a willingness to lay down some home truths when required.

Understated but modest and determined, Flanagan has already come across as exactly the kind of signing Sunderland fans were yearning for their club to make.

First and foremost, yes, his return has added some defensive solidity and height that will be much welcomed by supporters concerned about the team’s physicality.

But he also has the determination to make a success of this incredible opportunity in his career.

The warmth with which he has already spoken about the move (he has been on away days with Sunderland-supporting fans as a youngster) shows that he will be a valuable addition to both the club and the dressing room.

Jack Ross is a fan and pointedly said recently that he had a ‘desire to do things properly’.

He is one of a spine of experienced figures in the squad that will be immensely valuable throughout the season and the pressure-cooker of a promotion race.

Glenn Loovens is a vastly experienced character who has captained on numerous occasions in the past.

Jon McLaughlin has, like Flanagan, won promotion from this division and Lee Cattermole has proven his resilience and determination in the opening stages of the campaign.

Max Power’s instagram antics and matchday lifts for supporters only underline what a positive addition he has been to the spirit of the group,

There are numerous youngsters in the set-up, but they have a strong core of wiser heads to lean on.

The topic feels particularly pertinent when there has been so much debate regarding the choice of George Honeyman as captain.

The 24-year-old is to some a less obvious candidate than the other more experienced campaigners in the squad.

Ross has been robust in his defence of the midfielder and marked him out as a leader from day one.

His attitude on the training pitch but also his vocalness off it endeared him to Simon Grayson, Chris Coleman and now Ross.

It was something the fans were given a glimpse of when he called for the club to end the ‘gravy train’ after relegation last season.

The point, however, is that in football the captaincy is nowhere near as influential as in other sports.

The key is having a core of strong characters on and off the pitch, setting standards and driving the group on.

Early signs suggest than in Flanagan and numerous others, Ross has found that.

As for Honeyman’s place in the team, Ross has quickly put to bed any theory that giving the midfielder the armband makes him undroppable.

Bryan Oviedo is the club’s highest earner but is currently second fiddle to Denver Hume.

Honeyman will have to perform. Ross has no doubts that he will.