League One bosses will keep talking budget but few would have envied Jack Ross’s in-tray

Sunderland's squad is more expensively-assembled than most in League One.
Sunderland's squad is more expensively-assembled than most in League One.
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He wasn’t the first and he almost certainly won’t be the last.

In the run-up to the game Joey Barton had described Sunderland v Fleetwood Town as ‘financially, David v Goliath’.

Jack Ross

Jack Ross

He overestimated Sunderland’s budget somewhat, but it is true that the Black Cats spend probably quadruple what he has at his disposal.

It had been the same the week before, when Karl Robinson said: “They’re the most resourced team in the league and they should walk it.

“There’s no bragging rights with whoever they beat – they’ve got the best training ground, best ground, best players.”

Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony has said on Twitter that the Black Cats should have the league wrapped up by January.

It is true to an extent, of course.

Sunderland’s budget is by far the biggest in the league and it offers them a significant advantage.

While it is not an exact science and there are always outliers in every league, wages spent is generally the best indicator of where a team finish.

Sunderland’s relative financial strength has allowed them to recruit talented players like Dylan McGeouch and retain some of their academy products.

It has also allowed them to pick up some proven third tier operators, like Charlie Wyke, Max Power and Jack Baldwin.

It would be a bitter disappointment and a failure if Sunderland do not push for the top spots in the league.

Barton’s comments, though, only tell part of the story.

Talking and comparing budgets will be a theme this season as managers look to alleviate the pressure on themselves and their team. Expect it to be a regular theme particularly as the season reaches its climax next year.

Football, however, is about far more than money, no matter how important that aspect may be.

It is about stability, continuity, familiarity and creating a positive environment for players.

In so many of these aspects Jack Ross started the summer at a massive disadvantage.

He has had to deal with a major overhaul of his squad, doing well to get business done early but only now getting many of his key players on the field.

He is having to deal with a number of changes every week, developing new partnerships amid the pressure of the League One schedule.

Stewart Donald’s takeover may have done much to change the mood on Wearside but Ross has still had work to do in encouraging fans to return both in his demeanour and the style of football.

He has had to carefully manage a squad where there have been massive disparities in pay, with ferocious debate surrounding some of his higher earners.

Even now, his press conferences can be dominated by talk of AWOL players.

These are problems that money alone cannot overcome.

They are also problems that few other League One managers would have envied.

Ross has said himself that he would view anything other than promotion this season as a failure.

Most supporters would see it the same way.

If he achieves it, however, it will not be because of money alone.

Sunderland supporters know better than anyone that throwing cash at a club does not build a successful team.

In its own way, promotion would be a superb achievement on Ross’s part.