Sunderland manager Jack Ross reacts to decision to sack Didier Ndong
Jack Ross believes Sunderland's decision to serve Didier Ndong notice his contract will be terminated was a 'statement of intent' by the club's owners.
The club's strongly-worded statement on Monday also raised the prospect of future legal action if and when Ndong should join a new club.
The Gabon midfielder was offered the chance to leave the Black Cats but could not agree terms on moves to Torino and Benfica, he subsequently failed to report for pre-season training and the club say 'no reason was given' for that absence.
Sunderland served the midfielder notice on Monday and Ross was asked about the situation at his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Coventry City on Saturday.
Ross, when asked about the situation, said: "It has been relatively easy for me as a manager because of the work behind the scenes by other people, it meant I've not had to deal with a lot of it.
"I made my stance clear in terms of what I was trying to build on the training pitch and in the squad.
"I am grateful the owners have been in alignment with me in terms of their thinking, they been consistent and strong in their actions.
"It is difficult for me to comment in detail because I'm sure matters with Djilobodji and Ndong will take time to resolve completely but it is a statement of intent in terms of how we want to progress the club and take it forward."
Papy Djilobodji was served notice after he returned and then subsequently failed a fitness test, Ndong didn't get that far.
When asked whether Ndong underwent a fitness test, Ross added: "No. The situation had developed far beyond that.
"My dialogue and involvement with not only the player - or any representatives - had been pretty much non existent.
"I am grateful for as it allowed me to concentrate on what I had in the building and making that better."
When asked whether Ross was ever tempted to go to the board and say he wanted to use the club record signing on his return, Ross was adamant.
He said: "No, not from my side as a manager.
"To try and develop a culture within your club - it is relative in all works of life - it is not an easy thing to do, it can very easily be tipped the other way.
"I'm not casting aspersions on that one individual player to say he would do that but we have done well to build the spirit in a short period of time, we don't want to come away from that.
"The ones that have been at the club from day one have been very committed, the one we have bought have the right work ethic.
"We want to foster that and grow it and it is important we do that to get the club back through the leagues."
Ndong, who became the club's record signing in 2016, was quoted in the Gabonese media last weekend as saying he hoped to return and play a part in Sunderland's promotion push.
He appeared at the Academy of Light on Monday afternoon but was given short shrift.
A Sunderland statement reads: "Sunderland AFC has given notice under its contract with Didier Ndong. The player, who was under contract with the club until June 2021, failed to return to Sunderland for pre-season training in July as scheduled, nor in the subsequent months that followed. No reason was given for his failure to report and continued absence.
"As a result, the club has accepted Didier Ndong’s repudiatory breaches of contract and notice of the same has been provided to the player. Sunderland AFC does so whilst retaining the right to pursue the player and any club he may subsequently join in relation to compensation for the value of the player."
Neither play will be able to join a new club until January at the earliest, even if Sunderland's decision means that they do indeed become free agents.
Players whose contracts are terminated outside of the window are not able to join a new club until the window opens again.