Jack Ross has this message for Sunderland supporters and staff as he looks to end Wembley agony at last
Jack Ross says he is determined to become the first manager since Bob Stokoe to send Sunderland fans away from Wembley with a winning feeling.
The clash against Charlton Athletic on Sunday will have significant implications for the club’s future, particularly with discussions ongoing regarding potential new investment.
Ending a long season with promotion is the ultimate priority for Ross and while he insists Sunderland’s last play-off defeat to Charlton has not been a point of discussion this week, he admits the potential of banishing the club’s recent Wembley demons is an added incentive.
The Black Cats have lost six times at the national stadium since that famous triumph over Leeds United.
“For us it’s about very obviously winning the game,” Ross said.
“What I would really love as a consequence of that, more [than banishing Charlton demons] importantly, put right this recent record at Wembley.
“Beyond promotion, that would mean the most to me.
“I know the number of times people have followed the team there and been left disappointed, one as recently as a couple of months ago, so I would love to make sure that people travelling to London leave with that winning feeling.”
The game comes one day after Ross marks his one-year anniversary in charge of the club.
The Scot has developed a strong affinity with the club and the area, something that has served as an extra pressure but also a driving motivation.
“I’ve spoken enough about carrying the responsibility and the expectation, you’ll always do that at a big club,” he said.
“But the longer you’re at the club, the more you build those relationships with people around you.
“You know that there’s that common ground in wanting the club to be successful and I encounter that all the time working with people at the club, people who are die-hard fans.
“It adds to the pressure but I love it.
“Because the work they do is incredible, they’re genuinely chuffed when the team is doing well.
“At first it can spook you a little bit, carrying all that, but you learn to use it as a positive.
Sunday is about winning it for the club and all those people. I couldn’t really care less about winning it for myself.
“It’s more about giving these people a reward for all the hard work they’ve put in over the last 12 months.”
Ross moved to the north east with his family after taking charge, and admits in a punishing season he has been back to Scotland only a handful of times.
That is partly due to his work commitments but also how quickly he and his family have been able to settle in the region.
Sunday will define his first year in charge and though Ross accepts there will always be a difference in opinion on his work, he is proud of what he has achieved so far, on and off the pitch.
“There’ll be a difference in opinion,” he said.
“There will be some based on not a huge amount of knowledge, but that happens all the time.
“I don’t get uptight about it. I feel as if, I’m proud of the job I’ve done here, how hard I’ve worked and how relentlessly I’ve worked at it, how relentlessly all the staff have worked at it.
“Not just the football staff, the staff that support me on a daily basis, the people who have the club very much at heart have said often enough how much they’ve enjoyed this season, that the club is back to where it should be.
“There’s still a long road ahead but even hearing that is satisfying.”
A victory over Charlton would be a very significant step on that road.