Pair’s contrasting fortunes suggest Sunderland have finally landed the right manager at the right time

Jack Ross and assistant James Fowler
Jack Ross and assistant James Fowler
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In East Anglia it looks as if Paul Hurst is already fighting a losing battle.

His team are struggling and speculation about his future is rife.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg.

If the end is indeed nigh, another opportunity will no doubt follow for a manager who at Grimsby and Shrewsbury produced some outstanding work.

There will be sympathy, too, for a boss who from the outside looking in, has had a tough act to follow and even tougher budgetary demands to cope with.

Hurst’s position is interesting because it is by no means a significant stretch to suggest that it could be Jack Ross in his shoes and vice versa.

Ross and Hurst were the leading candidates for both vacancies in the summer.

Ultimately, Stewart Donald decisively and definitively settled on Ross as his man and moved quickly to bring him in. Evans did the same when Hurst’s Shrewsbury fell short of promotion.

Had Hurst ended up at Sunderland, it is fair to assume his recruitment would have been similar to what he’s overseen at Portman Road.

The likes of Gwion Edwards, Jon Nolan (who the previous regime at Sunderland had targeted) and Aristote Nsiala would not have been beyond the Black Cats’ reach.

Perhaps they would have made a significant impact.

Certainly, they starred last season and Hurst showed his capabilities in navigating the punishing League One season with a small squad and a low budget.

Who can say whether it would have been a success or not? And who can say how Ross would have fared in Hurst’s position?

Ultimately, a thought experiment like this can produce no definitive answers.

But by assessing what didn’t happen, we can perhaps make underline some judgements about what has happened.

Certainly, we can say that both Sunderland and Jack Ross got their research and decisions spot on in uniting for a League One push.

Where Ross was lacking, by his own admission, was his knowledge of the lower league market.

Tony Coton has made up for that shortfall and Ross himself has been influential in some savvy additions.

Jon McLaughlin and Dylan McGeouch look like inspired acquisitions capable of being crucial players in the promotion push.

Where Ross stood out for Sunderland was his style of play, his temperament and his forensic attention to detail.

All of those were seen as crucial to succeeding at a club where the demands and scrutiny are massive.

It looks a sound choice for this season and beyond, while Ross is unquestionably benefiting from the feel-good factor and sense of a fresh start built by Stewart Donald’s regime.

He could almost certainly have landed a job at a higher level, but saw circumstances at Sunderland that could see the club travel a long way in a short space of time.

In that sense, Hurt is probably swimming against the tide in his new role.

Ultimately, both are young managers with considerable promise and who will surely have long careers in management whatever happens at their current clubs.

Sometimes, however, it is all about the timing.

In recent years, Sunderland have become the ‘poisoned chalice’.

Right manager, wrong time has been all too familiar refrain.

How refreshing that this time, both parties seem to have got their judgement exactly right.

It looks being a mutually beneficial union.