Jack Ross reflects on Sunderland start and reveals why he is encouraged about promotion hopes

Jack Ross.
Jack Ross.
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Jack Ross is pleased Sunderland’s new-look squad is buying into his methods but says there is still room for improvement ahead of a home double-header.

Ross has made no secret of the fact he is targeting an instant return to the Championship this season.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

And while the hunt to add further signings continues before the loan window closes, Ross has been pleased with the quality, character and mentality shown by his players.

Sunderland host Sheffield Wednesday in the first round of the Carabao Cup tonight (KO 7.45pm) ahead of Sunday’s return to League One action against Scunthorpe United.

The Stadium of Light has proved a difficult place for the Black Cats to pick up victories in recent seasons, with just three wins in front of their home fans last term.

But following the dramatic opening day win over Charlton Athletic, Ross is keen to see his players build on the positive start and keep the momentum going.

Reflecting on Sunderland’s start, Ross said: “I’ve always worked on targets before in previous jobs.

“We’ve not really done it thus far because we probably wanted to get to the end of the window, because it’s been such a transient process.

“It’s probably gone away from what I’m like normally but my focus was on starting the season that showed some signs of promise in terms of how the team played and how they were buying into things.

“That’s been the case I think, but we can still improve. There’s been enough encouragement in the two games and the points tally shows that.

“We go into every home game with the intention of winning and if we do that on Sunday then I think it will be a healthy start ahead of two difficult away games.”

Sunderland have signed 12 players, with even more heading the other way following relegation to the third tier.

Ross’ side are seventh with four points from their opening two games with another 44 league games to go in a long and gruelling campaign.

Has Ross seen enough to date to convince him Sunderland have what it takes to challenge this season?

Ross added: “I’ve never shied away from it being the ambition for us and that was the case before a ball was kicked, before I met any of the players here and before obviously we recruited new members.

“It’s always been the ambition for me to get promotion.

“What I’ve seen is that it will be difficult, but what I’ve also seen is that we have enough quality within our group that will be able to cope with the challenges.

“What again has been pleasing is that, character and mentality wise, I think they’ve already shown in these few games that they are able to meet different challenges that they may come up against this season.

“That may have been the questioned that was posed of the group and of the club - ‘you cannot cope with the different challenges of this league’.

“And I think they’ve shown already that they will be able to do that, it’s just then replicating it across the remaining 44 league games.

“But the signs are certainly encouraging in that respect.”

While winning promotion is the priority, Ross is also keen to do well in the cup competitions and Sheffield Wednesday - set to make a raft of changes - will still prove the toughest test to date.

Ross added: “I’m looking forward to the game because the new experience for me is gauging new opposition. I can watch footage and I can watch teams, but I’m only really learning about them when I see them on the pitch and gauge the standard of them.

“From a Championship perspective, we played Middlesbrough - albeit only for 45 minutes in pre-season - but that was good. It gave me some insight into the quality in that league.

“The good thing for me is that I’ve got a number that have obviously played in that league and I would say have enough quality to play in that league as well.

“It is in the middle of a busy schedule and you mentioned changes for Sheffield Wednesday, and we have to assess our squad as well because we’re light.

“We play three league games in six days following Thursday night.

“There’s a number of players who have been good within training and they’ve had opportunities, but they may be getting more of an opportunity tonight.”

He added: “I think the fact that it’s being broadcast on television adds to it as well and it means the game won’t be flat.”