Jack Ross planning for summer and beyond as Sunderland's League One campaign looks set to go the distance
Jack Ross took the Sunderland job not knowing how many players he would have on the first day of pre-season.
Not many, it transpired.
Even as the summer developed, doubts about the future of many of his players continued.
Callum McManaman, for example, started superbly and looked like he would be a vital player, before swiftly departing for Wigan Athletic.
The knock-on effect was obvious. Incoming business was hard to judge when such significant funding was tied up in players whose futures were uncertain.
From day one Sunderland were playing catch up.
They can’t afford that again.
Regardless of what division the Black Cats find themselves in next season, a likely play-off campaign will shorten their preparation time.
Planning is underway for all eventualities.
“We have obviously had a difficult summer in that regard last year,” Ross said.
“We were way behind trying to do things, and we don’t to be in that situation again
“It’s not been aided by the fact that our season might be extended by a few weeks but we’ve got to deal with that.
“I’m still expecting to be further ahead than we were last year, probably just not as far ahead as we would be in an ideal world.”
There remains much uncertain at Sunderland beyond their immediate League One fate.
Ross himself has been linked with the Scotland job, though quickly dampened that by insisting he has much left to do on Wearside.
Rumours of a takeover have intensified in recent weeks, though Chairman Stewart Donald has rebutted them.
His stance is clear - fresh investment from the right source would be welcomed but at this stage is not forthcoming.
Crucially, Ross is pressing on with his planning for the short, medium and long term.
On the pitch and off it.
“I’ve got a good relationship with Stewart so I just work on the basis that if he’s got anything important to tell me, he’ll tell me,” Ross said.
“It would be weak of me as a manager to say that [speculation] affects my job, because it shouldn’t.
“I’ve probably for a while been keen to have a little bit more structure about some of the things we do on the football side, but Stewart knows that and he knows my ideas and the thinking behind it,” he added.
“It’s just about nudging that along and getting things in place, because you can imagine last summer, you put so much in place but then you’re right into the meat of the season. So everything just kind of rolls along and before you know it you’re at the end of the season again.
“There’s still bits of the football club that we need to get better but Stewart knows that because I’m open in communicating that.”
The scale of the rebuild last summer has often been conveniently ignored by those further afield, Joey Barton saying a few weeks aso that he would already have Sunderland promoted with Ross’ budget.
The Black Cats boss knows how he will perceived if Sunderland do not go up but insists that does not bother him.
“I honestly don’t get too bothered about what other people say,” he said.
“The only thing I’m bothered about is how I do the job. I said this after the Portsmouth match but football isn’t an exact science.
“The job is results driven, you’ll be judged on results, and the result doesn’t always reflect what you do.
“You can increase the possibility of getting results by doing things right but it doesn’t guarantee it.
“I’ve probably thought about it recently, when I walked in here as a manager, I remember how proud I felt in terms of getting the opportunity to manage a club of this size,” he added.
“If I was to leave the job tomorrow morning I would still have that pride in terms of how I’ve approach the job, how I’ve conducted myself and how I’ve tried to drive the club forward.
“You want to drive it forward as far as you can. But there’s only you who really knows about the job, and only you who can look yourself in the mirror and think, did I do it as thoroughly and properly as I can?
“I feel as if I have done. If I ever feel like that isn’t the case maybe those kinds of comments would bother me more.
“I think you find people get a bit more prickly and defensive when they maybe feel as if they’re not doing everything they could.”
An exhilarating promotion still remains a distinct possibility.
Either way, Jack Ross will have plenty left to do on Wearside.