Sunderland press conference: Duncan Watmore comeback plans revealed plus pre-Walsall updates

Jack Ross faced the press this afternoon ahead of Sunderland's trip to Walsall - but what did he have to say?

Thursday, 29th November 2018, 1:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th November 2018, 1:55 pm
Sunderland manager Jack Ross faced the press today

The Scot addressed a number of topics, from a possible comeback date for Duncan Watmore to how to prepare for facing Walsall twice in a week.

Here's what Ross had to say during the televised section of his press conference:

Ross on a busy Sunderland schedule...

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"Any league outside the Premier League in this part of the world is relentless. The number of league games we've had and the fact we've progressed in these cup competitions to date means that it's constant.

"Physically, I think the players are dealing with it well. I think they've shown already that their fitness levels are good and they've coped with a lot.

"Like everything, when you're in good form it's much easier to deal with. It sounds like I'm stating the obvious but it is the case. A lot of them are in good form individually and as a team they're producing good results, which means they do look forward to games. It's slightly frustrating as you spend less time on the training pitch, but we couldn't be in a better position at the moment in terms of taking these games on."

On the confidence gained from the Barnsley victory...

"It was good. It was an enjoyable game and it was another test for us because of who Barnsley are as a squad, where they were last season and the players they have within their group.

"There were loads of things that pointed to it being a big test for us and it was another one we came through. Each time we've been asked questions this season I think, by and large, we've responded. Naturally, the belief strengthens each and every time."

On the mood in the camp...

"The players - because they're in a good run of form, because they've won so many games this year - I think they believe we're scoring every game, which means they're in a good place. Individually there and as a whole squad. The great thing is they're not relying on 12 or 13 players, it very much has been a collective effort. I think it's good having these couple of cup games as well because the league is relentless.

"Although we want very much want to progress in these cups, there is a different feel around it. It gives a bit of freshness, especially this week because we were on league business last week."

On the challenge of facing Walsall twice in a week...

"It's probably the only time down here where you'll get a similar scenario that I faced in Scotland a lot. Because you play each other four times then any previous games are usually taken into consideration because it's not that long until you play each other again. Whereas, in England, it's usually quite spread apart. It hasn't made us look at the game any differently and I didn't have any issues on the game last week other than it being competitive.

"I thought last week it had a cup tie atmosphere around it because of the support we got and then because of the way the game unfolded. So I would expect the same again this weekend. I don't think we're going to go into anything different than we faced last weekend.

"It showed last week how tough a challenge it was to go there and get a result, and now we expect the same this weekend."

On Max Power returning to Walsall after his red card last weekend...

"I'm pleased we had the midweek game between the two games because it was a tiring period for him mentally. His own preparations would have been hindered slightly by the fact he didn't know he was playing until late Monday afternoon. So to get that game out the way, and the attention that was focused on hum because of that, was good.

"I had a chat with him today and he feels a lot better. It's not washed away, but getting that first game out the way and performing in the way that he did - you can overlook the fact he hasn't played a lot of football recently as well.

"We're delighted he got that game out the way and he's probably looking forward to really kick-starting his Sunderland career now as well."

On the impressive form of Luke O'Nien...

"Some players come to a club and settle right away, others take longer. I don't mean to say he was finding it hard among the group, he was really good from day one. It's a big change for him and, in his personal life, it's the first time he's moved away from home. There's loads of different things to consider, so we felt we tried to manage him and coach him in the best way. I think now he completely feels part of the club and that's been backed up by the contribution he's made.

"He's making it harder and harder to leave him out. He's such a good lad anyway and appreciates it's all about the group. The challenge for him at the moment is that all the players who are starting at the moment are doing well. He'll get more and more opportunities, we've seen that recently as he's got more and more game time. He'll start more and more games as well and we always felt he would be an asset to us this season, and I'm pleased that he's showing that."

On a first team return for Duncan Watmore...

"It was another big step for him, he did well and it was a competitive game on Monday night. I think with it being a derby match and having that competitiveness about it, he had to withstand challenges in it that were reflective to how a normal game would be.

"He trained again today and we'll look at the Checkatrade Trophy game on Tuesday and potentially his involvement in that. I think if he does get involved in that, it's another really big step for him as it's a first team game. I think I said that prior to his U23 game, that he's pretty much there."

On progressing in the FA Cup...

"I just want to continue to progress in it. I said it before the first round, we'll never pretend that promotion isn't the absolute priority for us, but we want to continue to progress in all the tournaments we're involved in. Naturally, for me, this is still a big tournament.

"To progress in it, we're going to have to work harder than we have done in a lot of years because of when we've entered the tournament. Again, the incentive is just to progress to the next round - regardless of the fact that all the other teams enter the competition."