From day one Jack Ross has been clear that only promotion will make this a successful season for Sunderland.
After twelve games they find themselves in a reasonable position to achieve it.
They return to League One action at Shrewsbury Town fifth in the table but with a game in hand on most of their rivals.
Ross points to the example of Blackburn Rovers, as well as some promising signs on the pitch, as a guide for how Sunderland can kick on after adjusting to life in the third tier.
“We’ve got a really good diagram [at the Academy of Light] that tracks where a couple of the teams were last season,” Ross said,
“One of them is Blackburn, who finished second and nearly won the title, and the other finished in the play-offs. Where we are at the moment is pretty much bang in the middle of them. #
“What you can see is that Blackburn had that real upward trajectory a couple of times. So you need to go on that run [of wins] at some point.
“I do think we’re on the cusp of it, how we’re growing as a squad, we’re getting better, dealing with the league better.
“I think the Peterborough game was one in which we probably played in a manner most similar to the team I had up the road [St Mirren],” Ross added.
“The personnel we had allowed us to do that a bit better, and Jerome was a big part of that in stretching the game.
“I watched bits of the Bradford game recently and he did that again. We won’t always be fixed that way but it just gives us another string to our bow.
“This week we’ve been able to reinforce things rather than reinvent them, which is often what it has been this season. We might have to change things [at some point] but I enjoyed watching us in those games.
“The Bradford game was skewed because of the red card but for bits of that game we were good as well.”
After 12 games last season, Blackburn had 20 points, three short of Sunderland’s current total.
Wigan Athletic, who went on to win the league, had 28 points while Saturday’s opponents Shrewsbury were top with 30 points.
They went on to fall agonizingly short of promotion as Tony Mowbray’s Rovers gathered momentum late in the season.
Sunderland have only lost once in the league this season but after an extensive summer overhaul are just short of the pace set by Portsmouth at the top of the league.
Ross hopes Sunderland can now begin to string together a long run of positive results and says he knows that needing time to adjust and acclimatise can no longer be used as an excuse.
“I think we’re way beyond that now,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever used that as an excuse as to why we haven’t won a game. For me now, 12 games in, we have a proper understanding of the league. T
“There’s been a period of transition I think for the players, in terms of the intensity of the games. I think Burton was a bit of a watershed for in terms of us not dealing very well with some things, which we’ve been so much better at since.
“I think as a team and me as a manager, we should just be judged as normal now. I think that period has long gone now.”