Jack Ross reacts to Leeds United 'spygate' scandal and reveals how he prepares for games at Sunderland

Jack Ross had to adapt to a new league after taking charge of Sunderland at the start of the season.
Jack Ross had to adapt to a new league after taking charge of Sunderland at the start of the season.
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Jack Ross wasn't surprised by Marcelo Bielsa's extensive PowerPoint presentation - which showed how the Leeds United boss thoroughly prepares for every fixture.

Bielsa, who took charge of the Whites at the start of the season, came under scrutiny last weekend after admitting he sent a spy to Derby's training ground, ahead of Leeds' Championship fixture with the Rams.

The incident certainly divided opinion and prompted Bielsa to show an extensive slideshow to members of the press, revealing how he and his staff analyse every opponent.

Ross faced a similar problem to Bielsa at the start of the campaign, when he arrived in a new country and had to learn about an unfamiliar league.

But due to the wide range of technology and information now available, the Sunderland boss found it easier to adapt.

“The level of technology and information that’s available to managers nowadays is high,” said Ross. “The size of your support staff is probably what dictates how wide that data can be. You then have to decide what’s relevant.

“I can’t say how other people decide that, but I would imagine there’s a lot of managers up and down the country that are very thorough in what they do.

“There’s a million and one things that people probably wouldn’t realise that we do. For example, I know what percentage of winning performances each and every player in my squad has been in this season. I know that for player X, 65 per cent of the matches he’s started, we’ve won. For player Y, it might be 52.

“Now, that doesn’t tell you the calibre of the opposition or anything like that, but it’s just another way of bringing in information that you might use or might not. Sometimes, it might back up what you see. But the stuff that was shown (at Leeds), wouldn’t have surprised that many people who are coaching or managing in the modern game.

Ross also admitted it can be a challenge to select the relevant data and channel it to players in an interesting and engaing manner.

Even so, it's a challenge he enjoys.

“You have to identify the key information, and then it’s about how you get it across. That will separate the average from the good and the good from the great. It’s something I try to focus on – how I’m able to condense information and get it across to my players," added Ross.

“It’s not just footballers, with anyone you probably have a ten or 15-minute window to get information across. Beyond that, you’re going to lose people.

“It’s about getting the information across, and then hammering it in all the time, whether it’s from my voice, written information or something they’re watching on a screen.”

Ross has tried to remain consistent in the way he prepares for games, after starting his managerial career at part-time Alloa Athletic in 2015.

Still, there are elements he has had to adapt.

“There’s a lot of things that are consistent with what I did when I was at Alloa,” said Ross. “It’s had to adapt obviously, and it’s broadened out in terms of the information and technology that’s available to me.

“Alloa was part-time, so my time with the players was limited. St Mirren is probably a better comparison because they’re both full-time clubs. Ewan Fotheringham, who did my analysis at St Mirren, came down here with me, but he works alongside Mark Boddy, so now I’ve got two people doing it.

“I suppose now, maybe I get a little bit lazy because I can go and ask, ‘Can you give me the stats on this?’ whereas before maybe I would have to sit and plough through it and figure it out for myself.

Ross also admitted it will be easier to prepare for games in the second half of the season, now he is more familiar with the league.

“When you’re familiar with the players it’s a lot easier, so this second half of the season is not easier but more comfortable," said Ross. "Preparing to play teams second time around there’s a lot more familiarity not just because we’ve played against them, but I’ve maybe seen them play against other teams as well.

“Part of it was the reason why I wanted to manage in another country, as a different challenge. I know I’m only Scotland to England but for all the guys who do that, they face that new challenge.”