Sunderland press conference: Jack Ross on financial boosts, Max Power and squad rotation ahead of Port Vale

Jack Ross spoke to the press ahead of the trip to Port Vale
Jack Ross spoke to the press ahead of the trip to Port Vale
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Jack Ross today addressed the press ahead of the visit to Port Vale in the FA Cup and had plenty of updates for supporters.

As well as previewing the trip to Vale Park, Ross provided updates on Jon McLaughlin, Max Power and Duncan Watmore and fielded questions on financial boosts and squad rotation ahead of a busy week.

Here's everything Ross had to say in the broadcast section of his press conference:

Jack Ross on the FA Cup being a priority...

I think it goes without saying that our main priority is to achieve promotion and a return to the Championship. But it’s a tournament that should attain its traditional values in how attractive it is to progress in. I know Charlie Methven has spoken this week about how it can help us financially. There’s a whole load of reasons we want to progress in the competition. With the form we’re in at the moment, we want to carry on that momentum of winning games so the game on Sunday is just as important as any league games we’ve had recently.

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On financial boosts from the tournament...

It’s not essential for us in terms of how we move forward, but I think it’s just another example of the more pragmatic running of the club and understanding that all these small gains help us in a lot of ways. Again, it’s not the main motivating factor for me and naturally I just want to keep winning games and progressing in the trophy, but there’s that added benefit for the club as well.

On squad rotation ahead of a busy week...

The Checkatrade is the most awkward because it’s midweek and obviously the proximity to the game on Sunday as well. Beyond that it’s relatively straightforward as I don’t view this game’s fixture as being any different to a normal league fixture. It falls on a weekend and we’ve had a rest period, or preparation period, in the last week after Plymouth. So this weekend and the Wycombe game are fairly straightforward, but the Checkatrade one is more challenging because of the way it falls.

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On resting players...

It’s terms of needing a rest, not necessarily because it’s been longer than a week since we’ve rested since the Plymouth game. It’s just exactly the same as it would be for a league game, I don’t look at it any differently. Our preparations and plans aren’t different to what they would be if we were playing a league game this weekend.

On the game being televised...

I’ve got a squad of players that are well-used to playing in either big games or televised matches so, for the vast majority of them, that makes no difference to their plans or preparations around the game. There's a mood of optimism and we’re feeling upbeat around the group. They’re excited about playing games on a weekly or twice weekly basis because of the form they’re in. When you’re like that, you just want the games to keep coming around and hence the reason why we’ve trained well this morning ahead of Sunday.

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On the challenge of playing away from home...

I don't think the challenge is much different than playing away from home every game in the league. We’ve spoken around away games having a cup final feel around them. If you’ve been present at them then you’d understand that the intensity around the atmosphere and the level opposition we’ve faced has been pretty intense. It’s been hard work on a fortnightly basis, but that will stand us in good stead away from home on Sunday against a team that will be determined to try and beat us and take us as a scalp. We’ve had good preparation in that sense so we’re looking forward to a different opposition and our own preparation has been in line and consistent with every league game this season.

On Jon McLaughlin's Scotland withdrawal...

I spoke to Alex [McLeish] yesterday and I'd had a chat to Jon previously to that. I was very clear to Alex that I would never stand in the way of any of my players being involved in their international team, but we're in a unique situation where we have international players but can't get games automatically called off for being in the Premier League or Championship. That is a challenge for international managers as well, because they're obviously selecting their squads on who they would like available. So I had a chat with Alex and explained that our game with Wycombe would be going ahead and that Jon was obviously third choice in that squad. Between us, we agreed that it would be good for Jon to play in that fixture for us, so I'm very grateful to Alex for how helpful he was and how understanding he was of the position we were in in, and that it wasn't down to a lack of desire from Jon to be involved. It's a difficult situation when your club side continues to play games in that period has well.

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On Max Power's return from suspension...

Excellent for me and it just strengthens our squad again. It’s been very stop-start for Max this season, but he’s continued to train well in the period he’s been out and played in a bounce game in midweek to get the feel of playing on a big pitch back. It’s a bonus for us to have him back and to get through that period without him in such good form is encouraging for me as well.

On Duncan Watmore's return to action...

I’ve been very consistent in that answer that I’ve never put a time-frame on it. I’ve been consistent in my conversations with Duncan on that too, hence the reason he has responded so well and his progress has been so consistent. Touch wood, the work that has been done with him on the medical and sport science side has been fantastic and it’s allowed him to progress at this really steady rate. He feels good about himself. He played a little bit of an in-house bounce game and the next step will be getting him involved with the under-23s and when he gets through that we start to assess when he could be involved in first team games. But there’s no definitive timeline on it.

On have a settled back four...

It obviously helps. We, for a variety of reasons, had to be creative with systems and personnel earlier in the season and although we still have injuries to contend with that defensive unit has been settled. The work they’ve done has remained consistent, it isn’t that we’ve just started to do that work during this period. It’s been there since the start of the season but the little bits and pieces we needed to get better at, we have done. Once you start to build momentum of getting clean sheets it's remarkable how far that can go with self-belief, confidence and desire.