Aiden McGeady’s return was a rare positive for Sunderland on Saturday.
Having missed the whole of the pre-season campaign through injury, the winger returned as the Black Cats looked to fight back from a two-goal deficit at the Pirelli Stadium.
He was immediately into the action, almost scoring an equaliser after Chris Maguire’s outstanding goal.
The Irishman’s influence understandably waned in the latter stages but Jack Ross was bouyed by his return.
The Sunderland manager insists that the 32-year-old is determined to help Sunderland bounce straight back from relegation.
“I thought he gave us a real spark when he came on,” Ross said. “It was a big ask of him because he hasn’t trained in four months.
“At the end of the game he probably looked a bit leggy but what he probably did was spark us in that period where we scored and had other opportunities. The thing about Aiden is he does care,” Ross added.
“I’ve known him for a while because of playing in Scotland and he’s a character. He does care about his football. He cares about having been relegated, he cares about being in this league and wanting to get out of it. That helps as well.
“You need characters that are vocal in that sense because he’s vocal about it. Having him back amongst the group and having that drive and having his ability in that area of the pitch, he’s going to be an asset for us. It’s a case of introducing him at the right times.”
McGeady made 40 appearances in all competitions last season, scoring seven goals.
Ross, who once marked McGeady in his Celtic days as a full-back for St Mirren, said before the game that the winger can have a major influence.
“John [Potter] and I played together for St Mirren when Aiden was at Celtic,” Ross said. “We both tell him how good we were against him and Aiden gives it back. He wasn’t the easiest player to play against.
“Statistically, I actually think he had a good season last year, a really productive season - one of his best goals returns in a season.”
“He’ll get more out fitness-wise in terms of training with us, and we’ve already seen this week that he’s got incredible quality on the ball. If we can get him back fit and available, then it only strengthens us again.”