Jack Ross verdict on Sunderland's gruelling schedule and the challenges of competing on all fronts

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.
Sunderland manager Jack Ross.
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Jack Ross is determined Sunderland will keep competing on all fronts as he juggles the pressures of a gruelling schedule.

Saturday’s 1-1 FA Cup second round draw with Walsall has added a further game to an already congested fixture list, the replay scheduled to take place a week Tuesday.

Sunderland, who face Notts County in the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy tomorrow night, play EIGHT games between now and New Year’s Day - six league games and two cup fixtures.

Ross admits the schedule and logistical challenges is ‘very demanding’ but hopes the walking wounded will soon return to help bolster his squad.

Skipper George Honeyman (ankle) and Chris Maguire (ribs) missed the draw at Walsall but are due back next weekend at Accrington Stanley, while Ross hopes Dylan McGeouch and Lee Cattermole will return to training this week.

Ross said: “That is the two challenges of the schedule; managing the players through it, the time on the training pitch becomes almost nil and the logistics of planning and all the travelling that come with it.

“Also, we are due to play Charlton [January 5] but we don’t know if we’ll be in the third round of the FA Cup yet, we want to progress in the FA Cup so that league game could be affected too.

“There is a lot of challenges logistically that come with the schedule, it is very demanding but other teams have similar schedules.

“Because we have progressed in the Checkatrade Trophy and now we have an FA Cup replay, we are going to be up there at the top in terms of the number of fixtures we will face in this period.

“We were stretched Saturday, as you could see from our bench, and we need these lads back because I think - including Saturday - we have nine games between now and January 1, which is a lot!

“It’s a game every three-and-a-half days, so getting players back will help us deal with that challenge.”

Sunderland have already played 19 league games, three Checkatrade Trophy games, a League Cup match and two FA Cup games this season.

There is no rest with Notts County the visitors in the Checkatrade Trophy tomorrow night.

Ross admits he will make changes to the team to face the League Two outfit.

“We will make a lot of changes, people can understand why,” he added.

“We have nine games - including Saturday’s game - and taking into account the Blackpool game on New Year’s Day.

“That is a lot and we have a lot of important league games too.

“We want to keep progressing in every competition but that isn’t easy to do, you can see that already and with a replay coming up as well.”