Jack Ross identifies key areas of Sunderland squad that needs improvement this summer
Jack Ross knows where Sunderland need to improve and the business that needs to be done if they are to bounce back strongly next season and avoid more Wembley heartache.
Sunderland’s last-gasp defeat at the hands of Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic has condemned the Black Cats to a second season in the third tier for the first time in the club’s history.
It was a heartbreaking way for Sunderland to end the campaign, a season that has seen the Black Cats play 61 games and end up with nothing to show for it.
Once the dust settles and the post-mortem is out the way, thoughts will inevitably turn quickly to transfer business this summer and the areas in which Sunderland can improve the squad.
Adding more goals up front, creativity and pace in wide areas key factors.
That can wait, for now, but Ross is acutely aware of the areas Sunderland need to improve in once the disappointment and soreness of this weekend has gone.
Asked if he had a clear idea of where to improve the squad, Ross said: “As a learning experience, as a manager you should always be learning regardless of age or experience.
“Over the course of the season we understand which areas we need to improve, we haven’t fallen short by very much but we have done [fallen short].
“That means there must be areas to improve upon, we have probably been aware of it for a while but you can’t do that much over the last few months of the season when the transfer
“But you have to be big enough to reflect on what you could have done better to avoid being in this sort of similar situation next season.”
Ross is confident the foundations that have been put in place this season under his stewardship will stand the club in good stead.
He added: “They have to be in order for the club to progress.
“I said a few weeks ago that it hadn’t turned, we had just stabilised it and put it in a position in order to drive it forward.
“You have to keep driving towards that and deal with the adversity of the knocks and move forward from them.
“You can’t just enjoy things when it is going well and not be able to deal with it when things go against you.
“I believe in my own abilities to do so but you have to keep doing that and I have to have a group of players that will keep doing that.”
On the game itself, Ross said: “We were here not so long ago and lost in a really sore manner, but it doesn’t compare to today.
“I think we knew the significance of the game, and the importance of coming out on the right side of the result. To lose in that manner, so late in the game, is particularly painful.
“We started the game well again and obviously got that fortune in the opening period. I think Charlton worked themselves back into the game, and scored in that period themselves.
"I did think we finished the half better again, in the last five or ten minutes of the half, and we looked like we had gathered ourselves again.
"There wasn’t a lot of clear-cut opportunities in the second half, although the game did become stretched with both teams looking fatigued.
"Going into the last ten minutes, I didn’t think we looked as though we were struggling. I thought we were in a reasonably strong position in the game, so obviously to lose a poor goal at
such a crucial stage was massively disappointing, although it’s not really the time for a dissection of that. There’s a lot of soreness and emotion at the moment.”
Sunderland haven’t won at Wembley since the 1973 FA Cup final triumph.
Ross added: “As a club I would always be striving for us to return here, not necessarily in this type of match but in finals.
“People pointed to last time these two sides played against each other here [in the 1998 Division One play-off final], for me it was nothing to do with that, it was about us winning promotion and secondly putting that record right.
“A number of people have come here with a passion to the club, you carry that responsibility every single time
“That soreness and rawness of emotion the players and staff are feeling and the fans, they will be feeling that as well.”