Jack Ross reveals what he told Sunderland squad at team meeting at the Academy of Light
Jack Ross is confident the Checkatrade Trophy final won’t prove a distraction for his promotion-chasing Sunderland squad.
The Black Cats reached the March 31 Wembley final after beating Bristol Rovers 2-0 in midweek but the focus quickly shifts back to the League One automatic promotion battle this weekend, with a trip to Wycombe Wanderers.
Ross spoke with the players at a weekly team meeting at the Academy of Light on Thursday and ‘re-emphasised the need to refocus on the job at end’ but admits the squad has been fully focused all season and he has no concerns on that front.
Sunderland are third, two points behind Barnsley who they face away on Tuesday night.
First up though is the trip to Wycombe, 12th in the table.
“The players have used the word satisfaction a lot to describe their feelings after matches,” said Ross, reflecting on the Checkatrade Trophy win.
“I think they’re satisfied that they’ve produced consistent performances and results throughout this competition in difficult circumstances at times.
“Every one of them deep down has pride knowing they’ve reached the cup final and have that to look forward to.
“But having spoken to them in the team meeting, not that I really needed to, but I just re-emphasised the need to refocus on the job at end.
“But I can just tell by looking at them - looking into their eyes - that there’s a group there that are fully engaged and yeah, we’re satisfied we’ve got there, but we’ll put it to the side and then when it comes around we’ll enjoy it.
“For now though, it’s about continuing to bang out results in the league.
“They’ve got the grit between their teeth right now which is good.”
Sunderland will be backed by almost 40,000 fans at Wembley when the Checkatrade Trophy final comes round later this month.
Ross added: “I’ve never really doubted how much it would mean. I think a proper fanbase acknowledges the significance of a cup final at Wembley.
“They obviously have very recent memory of being there which is positive to a degree, if you take away the result of the match.
“But it’s became a bit of folklore in the club and I think there’s people that maybe weren’t apart of it then that are desperate to be part of it this time and also people who want to revisit that also.
“I think more importantly for me, there are people who work at this club who are fans.
“They are work colleagues of myself now and I get the chance to speak to them and hear how much it means to them. Speaking to people back in the academy and in the kitchen, they’re speaking not as a work colleague but as a fan, and it gives me a better understanding of how much it means to them.
“It’s a brilliant reward for everything they’ve had to endure over the last few years.”