Frightening start to Sunderland tenure helps Jack Ross stay relaxed about AWOL player saga

SAFC 1-1 FTFC EFL league1 Stadium of Light 08-09-2018. Picture by FRANK REID
SAFC 1-1 FTFC EFL league1 Stadium of Light 08-09-2018. Picture by FRANK REID
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Jack Ross will have almost a full squad to choose from when Sunderland travel to Burton Albion on Saturday.

While he would have liked one more forward to arrive in the closing days of the transfer window, he will still be able to call upon a talented and already tight-knit group of players.

There were times in pre-season that he feared that might not be the case.

The initial month after his confirmation as manager was a difficult one, the boss working almost on his own as he pieced together what was to come.

Those memories mean he is able to keep a healthy perspective as the saga regarding Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong continues.

That matter is now firmly out of his hands with Sunderland serving Djilobodji notice that they intend to terminate his contract.

If anything, the ongoing matter serves to underline the size of the journey that they started under his and Stewart Donald’s leadership.

“Things get forgotten very quickly, not just in football but in life,” he said.

“It’s only really when you take a step back that you think where we were not so long ago.

“I have to remind myself of that, genuinely.

“Early in my tenure I sat in my office on a few occasions and thought, this is a heck of a job in terms of turning this round and how we ‘piece a squad together’.

“I was asking myself, ‘who is coming back?’ I honestly had no idea who was going to walk though the door.

“First day of pre-season I think we only had ten or so.

“You forget that.

“If I take myself to being in the barn at the training ground on the first day and doing the testing, we had two groups of five or something like that.

“How quickly we’ve got to this stage is encouraging.

“And it is not about dampening expectations, I’ve said often enough that we should have that and that I welcome it. That’s why I’m here.

“But you have to keep things in balance.”

Ross has had high praise for his head of recruitment Tony Coton and says that while bumpy times will inevitably be ahead, they can be pleased generally with the progress they have made.

“I speak to Tony Coton a lot and he’ll say that he thinks we’ve done a really job in terms of getting this together.

“We’ll have got some things wrong, that’ll happen and we’ll see that in the fullness of time, we’ll continue to get some things wrong in the future.

“But it’s encouraging that we’ve got a lot under real duress in terms of times and circumstance.

“It wasn’t smooth, it was frantic at times.

“I’m sure Stewart [Donald] would say that it was a lot more challenging than even he imagined.

“You think ‘clean slate, we go again’. and it’s nice and easy smooth.

“There’ve been a lot of bumps and I’m sure there will be along the way.”