Jack Ross shutting out the noise as Sunderland prepare to take on Portsmouth in his biggest challenge yet

For both sides, this has not felt like a typical play-off week.

Saturday, 11th May 2019, 12:02 am
Sunderland and Portsmouth will go head-to-head for the fourth time this season on Saturday night
Sunderland and Portsmouth will go head-to-head for the fourth time this season on Saturday night

The disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion has been too raw, too recent.

Then there is the fatigue of facing each other again, after what have already been three emotionally and physically draining clashes.

For Jack Ross the key this week has been shutting out the noise.

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It is a week he has actually enjoyed more than most, getting the rare opportunity to work closely with his players.

Sunderland's support will need encouragement from their side on Saturday night and Ross is confident that his players will deliver exactly that.

"I've really enjoyed this week because I've had a full week on the training pitch," Ross said.

"I've been back doing what I enjoy most, and the response I've had from the players has been really good.

"There's a freshness about the players, an excitement.

"I'm pretty self-disciplined, I can shut myself off from a lot of other things so I've been completely oblivious to any other sort of mood.

"The truth is, for me, whether it is 100 who turn up or 49,000, it's my responsibility to win the game," he added.

"That's all I look at.

"If we do that, people will be pleased.

"The only thing I can affect is how my players approach the game and certainly this week it has been very good."

This will be only the second time Ross has taken part in a play-off campaign.

The first came in 2012, when Ross was assistant manager to Alan Adamson.

Dumbarton overcame Arbroath and Airdrie United emphatically over four legs to climb into the Scottish First Division.

That second leg of the final against Airdrie United was played out in front of just over 2,000 fans.

The pressure come 7.30 on Saturday night will be very different.

Ross, though, has only ever managed in relegation battles or promotion campaigns.

He will not change his approach or his demeanor, on the training pitch, in the dressing room or the dugout.

"There's been a lot of key messages that we've used throughout the course of the season and our approach this week has been the same that it has been for all weeks," he said.

"Albeit we're playing Portsmouth for the fourth time, our preparation has been just as thorough, it's been exactly the same.

"The routine and structure has been the same.

"On Saturday it's about finding two or three key parts that can get in player's heads.

"Once you've done that you have to then trust them to know they're in the right place.

"There's a lot of different schools of thought now about when you should last speak to players [before the game].

"There's a lot of movement now that in the ten minutes before kick off, players should already be in that place.

"There's a lot of different processes but for us, there's a lot of thought goes into it.

"It's certainly not, 'good luck lads and get into them!"

It has been an exhausting campaign, finally reaching its final acts.

Ross has remained calm throughout it all and after a welcome opportunity to regroup, will hope his players are ready to deliver.