Why Jack Ross has genuine cause to be optimistic on the eve of his Sunderland tenure
The traditional scarf picture was delayed as Jack Ross was still on holiday, his future quickly resolved once Sunderland made a firm and decisive move for his services.
It was little surprise that following Shrewsbury’s defeat in the League One play-off final on Sunday, Ipswich moved quickly for Paul Hurst.
As Chris Wilder dropped out of contention by signing a new contract at Sheffield United, and Frank Lampard fell off Ipswich’s radar, it became clear that Ross and Hurst were the two favoured by both clubs.
Only Marcus Evans knows whether Hurst was his first choice all along, or whether he was largely gazumped by Sunderland’s swift move.
Either way, in Hurst they look to have made a fine appointment, a manager who has worked his way up from the bottom, upsetting the odds at every turn and building sides renowned for their fitness and resilience.
Sunderland were strong admirers themselves, but once Donald spoke to Ross his mind was made up.
High-tempo football, trust in youth, a real drive to manage Sunderland and an excellent communicator. When it came to Donald’s key criteria, Ross was a resounding match.
While Ross remains unproven south of the border, it is an exciting appointment and the 41-year-old will be itching to get started.
It is truly an extraordinary opportunity for a manager of his experience.
Sunderland has come to be seen as something of a graveyard for managerial talent in recent years but Stewart Donald’s takeover offers Ross a genuine opportunity to change the record.
On countless occasions under Ellis Short, there was a lingering feeling of ‘right man, wrong time’.
Martin O’Neill came to manage his boyhood club but after an electrifying start, badly lost momentum.
Chris Coleman had so many of the attributes supporters want in their manager but found himself unable to overcome the dire limitations that came with the end of the Short era.
All made mistakes, but all were faced with a daunting legacy left by mismanagement above.
Ross will face significant challenges but he will also get something most managers crave, if not a blank canvas then something as close to it as you could find.
He will be handed autonomy over transfers, a reasonable budget and a squad to build essentially from scratch.
A top class academy should help him build the energetic side he wants to make his trademark as a boss.
Donald’s rapid work in overhauling the club’s management structure also means for the first time in quite some time, the manager has real clarity about the club’s future.
Fan morale is high on the back of the new regime’s arrival and so it is little wonder that the job is such an appealing one to the former St Mirren boss.
The chances of success seem far stronger than when, for example, Derek McInnes surveyed the scene last summer and clearly decided he was on a hiding to nothing.
There are serious challenges, of course.
Tactically he will have to adapt to a new league, though Sunderland feel the move from the Scottish Championship to League One is, if not straightforward, then certainly surmountable.
Recruitment will define whether Sunderland can bounce straight back next season, and the departures of Neale McDermott and Jimmy Sinclair leave Ross starting largely from scratch.
He will by and large prefer it that way, standing or falling on his own decisions, but it leaves a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. He cannot afford many misses.
Finally, he will hace to face the last remnants of Sunderland’s Premier League errors, with a number of big-earners still in the squad.
If they can’t be moved on they will pose a major test of Ross’ man-management skills.
Stephen McGinn, his captain at St Mirren, said he would be in for some ‘testers’, but backed him to come through.
It will be a whirlwind start to his time in charge and Ross will know that a club of this size cannot afford a slow start to life in League One.
He will feel, nevertheless, that he has good reasons to be optimistic.