While Jack Ross is a manager who likes to set targets, he admitted earlier this season that such were the demands in the opening months of his tenure, he hadn’t had a chance.
That revealed much about how much work has been done in a short space of time. perhaps inevitably, then, the football has been a touch stop-start.
There have been spells in games where the quality has been exhilarating but there have been frustrating afternoons, too.
Sunderland’s place in the table reflects that.
Fourth and in a good position, but short of the pace set by Portsmouth and Peterborough United.
A win against Peterborough United would take them to two points a game, a pace that Ross believes would have them well on the right track.
His ten game verdict is good, but could be better.
“It depends on how you look at the start of the season,” Ross said,
“Obviously we’d have liked to have turned some of those draws into wins. One defeat in ten is good, I think we’d all have been reasonably pleased with that at the start of the season. I think there’s only Portsmouth now who are undefeated.
“The top two have been fairly relentless in their results but we have kept ourselves there or thereabouts. A win tomorrow would bring us to that 11 games, 22 points and that is pretty good. But that’s how quickly perceptions can change in football.
“I’ve never really looked too much at what the teams at the top are doing.
“I think we’ve always had an understanding of what track we need to be on to get promotion. If you average two points a game over a season, it puts you on 92 points, which is pretty close to achieving automation promotion. We’ve got 19 points from 10 games.
“If you look too much at other teams, you can perhaps take your eye off the ball in terms of what you’re doing.
“But you don’t want to be detached from the teams that are in the top two places. Tomorrow’s an opportunity for us to obviously close that gap.”
Ross admits his team his still searching for top gear on the pitch, but is reassured about the character in his squad.
“I get frustrated because I would like to be further ahead, to have won more games,” he said.
“That’s kind of how I am generally, I’m a perfectionist who never quite finds it, and I’ll never quite change that. I had it up the road, I had a team that went on incredible runs and I still felt agitated because it wasn’t absolutely perfect. Sometimes other people are better at reminding me where we were and where we are.
““On the pitch, I think we’ve still got a lot where we can better.
“Off the pitch, the training ground environment, I’m really pleased.
“I know the on the pitch one is the one that always matters, the one I’ll be judged on. But the other one gives you the platform and you can never underestimate the importance of it.
“What we’ve build it in the changing room is really good, it’s just producing it time and time again on the pitch,” he added.
“I think that is slightly due to the fact that we’ve had to chop and change.
“It’s always been a bit broken, up and down in terms of selection.
“Other teams make changes but they’ve had a little bit more consistency.”
The Coventry game perhaps nearly reflected that, a performance that frustrated, a result that disappointed.
Still, there were positives to draw on and another afternoon where his squad of players showed character.
Ross insists that it is going to be crucial.
“When we don’t win I feel as if I’ve not done my job properly.
“I’ve said it to the players, when we don’t win, it’s always quiet [in the dressing room] and that is just because of the expectation at the club.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve got to keep that positivity.
“I always say that they’re the ones out on the pitch, it’s dead easy for me to say on the sidelines, we should have done this, that and the other.
“But I don’t know what it’s like in the last 20 minutes at Coventry where we’ve more or less got ten men.
“Their energy levels were brilliant in that period, so they come in at the end of the game probably with that feeling of, ‘not a lot went for us today, but we’ve dug in.
“A supporter can see it differently, so can you writing about it.
“They’re the ones out on the pitch and generally they’ve been pretty honest, I trust that about them and if they’d been really poor on Saturday and thrown away two points through sloppiness, I think the mood would have been very different.
“We’ve not blown teams away, there have only been flashes of that,” he added.
“In terms of the rebuilding that we’ve done, we don’t have a Premier League squad that has dropped down with us, one that is going to win the league by 40 points. “It is a team that is going to have to graft and earn every single point this season.
“Sometimes teams can find it hard to adjust when they drop into a new league but these players have been resolute with that. In this league it is bonkers to be ten games in and be less than a quarter through the season. That’s remarkable.
“So I try to look at how I feel about the group, and that’s what I’ve said about the things on the pitch but being in a good place off it.”
Three points against Peterborough would make the eleven game verdict look very positive indeed.