Insight into what drives title-chasing Jack Ross and his weekly message to Sunderland squad

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Jack Ross has never shied away from his ambition of winning promotion with Sunderland in style by lifting the League One title in May.

Most managers may attempt to dampen the expectation levels, not Ross. The Scot is, by his own admission, a perfectionist.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

And he wants to make it back-to-back titles following his Scottish Championship success with St Mirren last season.

Sunderland take a break from league action this weekend, the Black Cats travel to face Port Vale in the FA Cup first round on Sunday afternoon.

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Ross’ focus this week has been on making progress in the cup competitions, with the final Checkatrade Trophy group match to follow at Morecambe next Tuesday.

But his ambition of holding aloft the League One title is never far from his thoughts.

Ross has been reflecting on his relentless drive for perfection in an in-depth interview with the Coaches’ Voice.

“I spoke to the players about it [our aims for this season] as soon as the squad was settled,” said Ross.

“We’re targeting promotion. We speak about it every week. That can be formally, within our meetings – or informally, with messages passed on within the group or in the changing room before a game, when people are motivating each other.

“I’ve never shied away from targets as a manager. I’ve always put them out there. Does it invite more pressure? Possibly, but there’s pressure on us to perform and win every week. Rather than avoid the pressure, it’s about being resilient enough to deal with it.

“I only developed that mental resilience late on in my own playing career. And since moving into coaching and management, it’s something I’ve tried to become more knowledgeable about.

“When I was younger, I would have said that mental strength is inherent. Something you either have or you don’t.

“But it’s abundantly clear that you can absolutely strengthen your mind set if you listen to the right people and train your mind in the right way.

“I have a tendency to overthink things. It can be an advantage, because you feel as if you’re thorough in your work and that the decisions you make are well thought out. You still might get them wrong, but at least there’s a thought process behind them.

“The negative side of it is: how do you switch off?

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“I’ve become a lot better, not necessarily at switching off, but at understanding my own mind. I worked with a gentleman called Gavin White at St Mirren, who’s a brilliant sounding board for me. He works mostly in the corporate world with businesses and executives, but the same things can apply to football.

“Sometimes we just have a general chat, sometimes it’s about challenges I’m facing and how I can understand and deal with them better. I’m reading a book called The Chimp Paradox at the moment, and that’s probably as good a book as I’ve read in that respect – clarifying what goes on within your own head and how you maintain that clarity of thought.

“The overthinking will never go away. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s also part of what makes me work as hard as I do at the job. The trick is to keep that balance, so it doesn’t become a negative.”

Sunderland are second in League One, three points off leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand.

Ross added: “I’m proud of how far that hard work has taken us in a short period. But now we have to get better.

“This job is a bit like turning an oil tanker: a big, strong, powerful thing that’s moving in one direction. We’ve got to get it to stop, turn it around and get the momentum going the opposite way.

“That’s not easy. It takes a lot of work to do it.

“But I think we’ve turned it. Now it’s about getting it moving in the right direction.”