Sunderland boss on pre-season schedule and bringing unity to the Academy of Light
Jack Ross says building trust with his players and bringing unity behind the scenes is vital as the pre-season programme begins in earnest.
The Sunderland boss had a month to familiarise himself with his surroundings on Wearside before his squad returned from the summer break, and he has made numerous tweaks to the Academy of Light to try to bring staff and players closer together.
He has been encouraged by the response so far and says he believes it will help navigate a tricky start to the season, with Sunderland facing some testing and lengthy trips in the opening stages of the League One campaign.
Ross said: “Like everybody, seeing our fixtures brings that realism to the fact that the club finds itself in League One.
“We have a tough opening spell, both logistically in terms of travelling and because of the calibre of the opposition.
“To win any league, at any level, in any country is not easy, so that has never changed.
“It probably just adds a bit more excitement to it from our point of view. We know who we are playing and what we need to prepare for, but for us, at the moment, it’s very much about building a trust between my staff and the players.
“That’s an important thing to develop to begin with because once we get that, you can start to influence them in terms of how you want to do things and how you want to play. That’s been going well relatively early.
“I think we’ve made little tweaks around here as well that hopefully will help that.
“It’s such an impressive building [the Academy of Light], but it’s so vast as well that you can very easily become detached from each other.
“We’re playing about with little rooms, and where people are that will help the staff get closer to the players. Hopefully, that will be beneficial in the long run as well.”
Sunderland have a slightly reduced game schedule in pre-season this year, with a trip to Darlington tomorrow night starting a five-game schedule.
That is not a concern to Ross, with his squad still a work in progress as he balances the need to strengthen with the need to reduce the club’s wage bill simultaneously.
As such, his squad can expect significant game time in the coming weeks.
Ross said: “We’ve got five [games], plus the training exercise we had in Portugal.
“But, because of the numbers in the squad, it has to work that way.
“At the moment, we are working with a lighter squad so they will get plenty of game time in those fixtures.
“If I was dealing with a squad of 25 or 30 players, we’d need more games to get them all game time.
“The number of games is right for where we are now, but, of course, we can adapt it – if there is a sudden influx of 10 more players then we would need more games, but I don’t envisage that being the case.”