Jack Ross reflects on Didier Ndong agreement and why it’s a boost for his recruitment team

Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong.
Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong.
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While the international break saw Sunderland’s rivals nip ahead in the League One table, off the pitch the Black Cats were able to take a significant step forward.

Reaching an agreement with Didier Ndong secures a future fee and avoids the prospect of a lengthy, draining and expensive legal process.

For the player, it also makes him a significantly less risky prospect for a potential new employer.

Jack Ross has urged the 24-year-old to make the most of that opportunity and is pleased that all parties can now move on.

While there are obvious budgetary benefits for Ross and the Black Cats, it will also be a significant boost for his recruitment team.

A significant summer overhaul was not helped by the time-exhaustive discussions over Ndong’s future.

While outgoings will still be an issue in January, and the Papy Djilobodji saga is yet to be brought to a definitive conclusion, a positive resolution on this front will help when it comes to planning for the winter window.

“For the business model of the club, it helps,” Ross said.

“That goes without saying.

“Selfishly, for me, it might help a little bit when January comes around.

“It’s nice to have it resolved. I don’t have an opinion because I never met him. So it’s genuinely very difficult for me to say what I thought of him because I never came across him.

“But for him, and he’s a human being regardless of what people say, he’s a fairly young man and it’s a short career.

“I’d like to think he can get his career back on track. He’s got to.

“Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things that weren’t right. But he’s still a human being. He’s a footballer and when you get to the end of your career you don’t want to have any regrets.

“So I’m glad that it’s been resolved, and I’m pleased for the people at the club who have had to deal with it, because that’s been a lot of work,” Ross added.

“I’m pleased for them that it has been put to bed.

“Not just with Didier, with several other things, if you speak to Tony Coton, a lot of his and Richard Hill’s time and energy was spent on us moving on players who needed to move on.

“That was to the disadvantage of actually making sure we were always one step ahead in terms of what we could bring in.

“It allows us to be more focused in that way as well.”

Ross does not expect to make an major January additions, with Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore hopefully returning to action before the window opens.

He is also well aware of the financial pressures Sunderland’s new regime have battled with, dealing with a near-ruinous Premier League legacy.

But some strengthening would be welcome and Ross is confident that Stewart Donald will back him to that end.

Ndong’s departure is one piece of the puzzle solved in that sense.

“The way that Stewart has always operated with me, and I said in my very first press conference that I’d never asked about budgets,” Ross said.

“There were good reasons for doing that with all the things that were going on and the position the club found itself in.

“It’s obvious that with Didier leaving, it’s beneficial for us, it just helps with the overall business model. 

“Regardless of that, I think Stewart would have been supportive of anything I’d have asked for in January. He knows I’ve always been balanced in what I’ve requested as well. 

“I know that if we want to strengthen we’ll be able to do so, within reason obviously. I don’t see us being hamstrung.

“We need to make sure we don’t become too heavy in [terms of] numbers but I think we’ve done that OK. If you look at our squad, it’s probably just about right in terms of numbers. One or two might be helpful.

“That’s again, you can’t predict what will happen between now and January, but to counter that, Charlie Wyke will be coming back around that time, Duncan Watmore will be available before then. 

“It will be dependent on what happens between now and then.”

Ndong is free to find a new club, with Sunderland to be compensated when that happens.

Reports on Gabon have said that they will be due around five million Euros.

A number of clubs were keen to sign Ndong in the summer, with Sunderland going as far as to agree a fee with Torino, only for the Serie A side to balk at his demands.
La Liga side Leganes and Portuguese giants Benfica were also keen.

Whoever Ndong joins, he cannot be registered to play until January.