David Preece: This is what did for Jack Ross at Sunderland and why there was no time to waste

The guillotine falls of them all in the end, and so it has sliced through Jack Ross’s time at Sunderland.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 7:00 pm
Jack Ross was sacked just hours before the EFL Trophy win over Grimsby Town.
Jack Ross was sacked just hours before the EFL Trophy win over Grimsby Town.

No doubt, it will have been a tough call to make but for someone who has invested so much in bringing the fans closer to their club again, Stewart Donald will have felt it was time to listen to their voice.

The sounds of discontent could be ignored no longer and decisions had to be made. The leeway that was afforded to Jack and his squad during last season was nowhere to be found as promotion became a minimum requirement, not just an aim.

In that respect, I have a lot of sympathy for the outgoing manager. He did a great job in amalgamating a fractured squad containing many new arrivals on and off the pitch, but the urgency of the club’s situation has become more pressing this term and merely being within touching distance of the top two places isn’t enough.

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It does take time to build a squad and mould it using your vision but what is important is to see that vision grow roots and sprout leaves, giving you hope of what’s to come. And it’s this, more than results, that seems to have proved costly.

I keep banging on about philosophy and style of play but it’s crucial to that connection to the fans. If they can identify what kind of team theirs is and what type of football they are employing, it strengthens the bond and they take that identity on board themselves.

Of course it’s easy for me to sit here like I did last season and say Jack should take the shackles off and give the team more attacking licence but conservatism kills and if there is one thing that could be levelled at Jack is that the football wasn’t entirely wonderful.

I’m in the industry and know better than anyone results matter.

Here in Sweden, we can probably be thankful that despite of a poor run of late, we have a board who take into account the off field situations (of which there are many more than stipulated last week) and put belief into the brand of football we are trying to implement with a young set of players.

They see that if we can get through this season and steady the ship upstairs, anything could happen next season.

Look at our predecessor here, Graham Potter. After his success in Östersund, he finished 11th in the Championship before being headhunted by Brighton in the Premier League. He and Billy Reid did a great job in trimming fat off the Swans squad and doing what others failed to do at Sunderland.

He stopped the rot, playing attacking football and look where they are now, flying high in the division.

My point is that Potter didn’t have to win anything at Swansea to secure his move with the big boys, but his brand of football is what took him and his staff there.

It’s a totally different situation at Sunderland, where sixth isn’t good enough. It’s no real black mark against Jack who will continue to develop himself as a leader.

I can see him being back in a top job back in Scotland very soon and he will get another crack at English football. In between I’m sure there’ll be some reflection on his part, and a period of education, looking at how to improve when the call comes again.

What now then? I see Daniel Stendel linked with the job and he deserves to be on the back of his achievements at Oakwell last season but they will need to do more digging beneath the surface than just look at that.

Time for Stewart and Charlie to get their thinking caps on again. This is one decision they can’t get wrong. They have been brave in welding the axe, now they need to be brave in their appointment too.