Proud Jack Ross reacts to Sunderland's Wembley return after Portsmouth play-off gameplan executed to perfection
Fight. Spirit. Togetherness.
Sunderland booked their place in the League One play-off semi-final at Wembley with a determined display, the goalless draw sealing a 1-0 aggregate win thanks to Chris Maguire's first leg volley.
Beaming Jack Ross has hailed the character of his Sunderland players and the Scot is as determined as ever to lead the club back to the Championship at the first attempt.
Sunderland's game plan was executed perfectly against Portsmouth and with the help of an inspired Jon McLaughlin performance between the sticks, sealed a place at Wembley.
It was a feisty game at a packed Fratton Park and the hosts could easily have been down to ten men in the first half following bad challenges from Gareth Evans, Brett Pitman, while Tom Naylor threw the ball at the head of Chris Maguire.
But the Black Cats kept their focus and cool and a superb second half performance kept the hosts at bay.
A delighted Ross said: "I have been proud of them all season.
"I don't care what anybody says, the outside perception of what we should do as a club is nonsense.
"We have had a lot of things to deal with this season but the players have shown a lot of character, over these past few weeks especially.
"In recent weeks there felt an apologetic feel about us being in the play-offs but we used that as another driving force to come through these two ties.
"I am proud how they handled that and approached the two games in the mindset that they have.
"Proud they handled the occassion.
"Promotion was always the aim, that is my ambition. I didn't come to England to manage in League One for more than one season.
"I want to manage in the Championship and take the club there. We have another opportunity. People keep telling me it is the best way to do it, I am not sure if I agree with them!
"We are back at Wembley and in front of a big crowd. We are looking forward to it. We will have a bit of a breather and look to go again.
"There is a lot of different opinion on how you feel after winning a semi-final but you see from our reaction we are pleased, satisfied, this is a difficult place to come but we still have one big game ahead of us.
"We'll enjoy it, there is a happy dressing room there, the players deserve it. They realise there is a huge week ahead of them and all the preparation too.
"I have a seven or eight hour bus journey back but I will celebrate as much as you can!
"It will be a good journey home, it is a long journey home but it is more satisfaction that we have answered some criticism in getting to the final.
"We have another opportunity to go and achieve what we set out at the start of the season which was to return to the Championship at the first attempt.
"The fact it is at Wembley is part of it, we were there recently but it doesn't make it any less special, it just means we are more familiar.
"It takes that sense of occasion away from it a little bit and it just becomes a really really important game for us."
Charlton Athletic host Doncaster Rovers in the other semi-final second leg tonight, Lee Bowyer's side with a 2-1 lead.
Ross added: "For us, I couldn't care less who we play in the final at this moment in time!
"Whoever we play we'll prepare for it.
"This is a tough difficult environment to come to and the fans create an incredible atmosphere and you have to be able to deal with that.
"We had a gameplan, we wanted to play a certain way and we did it pretty well. We wanted to be tighter on the ball first half but as the game went on we looked more comfortable.
"It is about coming out on top over the two games however you do it."