Scottish playmaker at the heart of Sunderland midfield lifts lid on life under Jack Ross
Sunderland pulled off a coup when they landed midfield ace Dylan McGeouch, beating a host of clubs to his signature.
McGeouch is still living in a hotel as he looks for a permanent home, an intense training camp in Portugal and three friendlies in a week keeping him busy.
But while he finds his feet off the pitch, on it, the Sunderland fanbase has already had a taste of what he has to offer.
Composed and calm on the ball, the deep-lying playmaker’s role is to dictate the tempo and keep the ball moving.
Under Jack Ross, Sunderland will look to play a 4-3-3 system, with the manager keen to play out from the back.
Happy to take the ball under pressure, McGeouch will play a key role.
“If I can get on the ball, make things happen and dictate the tempo, then great. That’s kind of my job in the team and what I bring,” said McGeouch.
“Grimsby Town was only our third game and the players are still getting to know each other, that should improve as the weeks go on.
“For me, playing in the middle of the park is just about trying to get things moving and letting boys express themselves going forward while I keep things ticking over.
“It’s all different depending on the manager’s instructions but [at Hibs] I played deep as a kind of No6 last year with two ahead of me.
“I did that again Tuesday and it worked at some points. Over the coming weeks it will get better, the team will adapt and I’ll adapt to the team.
“That’s the role I enjoy, getting the ball in deep areas and letting boys progress up the park and express themselves, while I back it up. Hopefully, I can do that here and be a big influence.
“Every team brings different challenges and it’s adapting to that.
“I obviously knew I was coming to a big club and teams know that as well because we’ve come down and we’re looking to bounce back up.
“It’s something we need to face head on, we can’t shy away from it, we need to roll our sleeves up and when we can get the ball down and play that’s when we can show the talent we have in the team.
“It’s going to be a fight this year and teams are going to play long balls and put the ball on top of us so we need to match that, play off second balls and when we get the chance to play, we can do that.”
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The 25-year-old arrived on the back of the best season of his career, the Scot hugely influential in helping Hibs qualify for Europe.
A key factor in joining Sunderland was the chance to play under Ross.
The 25-year-old said: “He’s been great since the day I came in, very approachable and great for the lads. He’s been positive as well, as have the backroom staff.
“Everyone’s tried to change the mentality of the squad. There’s no looking at what happened in previous years, we’re looking to bounce back and be a positive energy.
“I think the boys are adapting to that in training. It’s different every day and the boys are enjoying it. You can see the performances getting better and better so hopefully we can keep that going.
“As a new player you need to find your way into a team and understand people’s games. They need to understand me.
“It’s new and there are a lot of new faces so we just need to bed ourselves in as a squad and hopefully we can progress.”
Progress is what Ross is aiming for in the club’s ongoing striker hunt, Sunderland scoring just two goals in three pre-season games.
Chris Maguire, not an out and out striker, led the attack in the 1-0 win over Grimsby Town.
When asked about the squad’s lack of strikers, McGeouch added: “I think the manager recognised that and we played with a false No9, Chrissy playing in the middle of the park kind of worked for us, playing passes through. We made it work.
“It was the manager’s choice to go for that position and if he brings one or two bodies in then great, but it’s great that we’re getting the performances and the results as well now.”
McGeouch returns to Scotland with Sunderland on Saturday, to face St Mirren, Ross’ former club.
“I’ve played St Mirren a good few times over the years and it’s a good stadium and a good team. Alan Stubbs is my old manager so it will be good to go back and see a few familiar faces.”
Stubbs has history with Sunderland of course following his disastrous six-month spell at the club in 2005.
McGeouch added: “I wasn’t aware of that but hopefully it will add a wee bit of spice to the game. Obviously with our manager going back to his old club with a few familiar faces, I think it will be a good game. St Mirren are looking good having just come up and we’re starting to click as well so it should be a good game.”