'Level-headed' and 'intelligent' Jack Ross praised as he prepares to renew friendly rivalry

Ross and David Hopkin tussled for promotion in Scotland last season
Ross and David Hopkin tussled for promotion in Scotland last season
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Saturday will represent something of a first for Jack Ross this season.

So far it is has been a journey into the unknown.

New managers, new players, new stadiums, new teams.

He has admitted more than once that there have been a few surprises along the way.

At Valley Parade, however, it will be a very familiar, and friendly, foe.

New Bradford boss David Hopkin is slowly starting to turn the Bantams' season around and they welcome Sunderland having kept consecutive clean sheets in the league.

Though Hopkin is still instilling his methods on his new squad, Ross knows exactly what to expect.

The pair have twice tussled for promotion north of the border.

First, when Ross battled to take Alloa back to the Scottish Championship after their relegation in his first season.

A 10-game winning streak followed, but so too did the call from St Mirren. In the next campaign the pair went head-to-head, both winning unlikely promotions that turned a number of heads in the English leagues.

Ross' side may have won the league comfortably in the end but there is no doubting the quality of Hopkin's work.

"Even going back to my second season at Alloa, David was in charge at Livingston when they won their first promotion," Ross said.

"I know him well, we've got a really close mutual friend as well. What he achieved at Livingston was fantastic. They've continued the momentum that he very much built in the Scottish Premiership this season.

"Looking at his Bradford team to date, I don't think they're playing entirely as he'd like them to play, until January probably when he can get his own type of personnel in.

"I think he's probably, as you have to do, find a way with the personnel he's got.

"All his teams play with a great deal of energy though, I know what to expect in that regard. It'll be nice to come up against someone that I'm with familiar with, I've not known any of the managers so far.

"David I suppose was slightly different coming down in that he had a very good playing career in England.

"He left Livingston without another job so it's a slightly different set of circumstances," he added.

"I think managing in England, you are managing in a different country and that's part of the attraction. Because of the proximity of the two it's never really seen as that, but it's a different challenge.

"Playing each other twice a year rather than four times, the different stadiums, maybe that excited him as well."

Hopkin praised Ross' 'bravery' in taking on what had come to be seen as something of a poisoned chalice.

"He’s an intelligent man and has got something about him that he wants to show people he can do it," he told the Bradford T&A.

“Sunderland have had four or five managers over the last four years and none of them have worked out.

“Jack was brave enough to go and take the challenge. You’ve got to take your hat off to him.

“It was probably an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

"I’m glad that he’s come down and done well because it’s a tough job to do.

“We’ve had a few battles and I’ll be looking forward to seeing him again.

“He was at Alloa when I was first at Livingston and both of us were trying to get promoted from that league.

“Then he went to St Mirren and had a tough time to start with. But he got his own people in and did really well to get them promoted to the Premier League.

“He’s been given a fantastic opportunity at Sunderland, a massive club.

“I think he deserved it. He’s level-headed and a good coach."