Having dropped him for a month, Jack Ross reckons that Chris Maguire will feature every week if he can replicate the performance he put in against Accrington on Friday night. Ross said: “What he showed was a return to the levels he had been at earlier in the season. Often, footballers become better players when they don’t play. That happens in the eyes of a lot of people. I’ve been there myself – whenever I was injured, I all of a sudden became ten times better than I was when I was playing. Then I was back a couple of games and people remembered I wasn’t very good! In Chris’ case, his form had dipped a little bit. We needed to see more of a response from him, but that was always communicated with him and he always had an understanding of where he was at. Equally, he always knew that opportunity would present itself, it was then how he took it. The majority of the second half he played on Friday, he absolutely did that. I said that to him after the game – when he produces that level, he’ll always play because he has quality. It’s just about making sure he does that time after time in games and time after time in training. There’s a variety of reasons why we make any decisions, whether it be individually or collectively as a team. That’s where the unseen side of things comes in – there’s a huge amount of thought process behind any decision. The reality is that in football, if you win a game all your decision-making is brilliant, if you lose a game it’s all rubbish. That’s how it’s judged. You’ve got to live with that. The truth is somewhere in the middle. I thought in the second half we played a shape that we have been more accustomed to this season, and we were better. Like everything, it’s about looking at what you have at your disposal, and what gives you the best chance of winning the game.”
Ross has also defended Jack Baldwin following criticism from Stephen Elliott, who tweeted: "Maguire and McGeady were the difference between Sunderland losing the game and drawing it. Big improvements needed. Defensively looked very disjointed tonight. Baldwin diving in erratically becoming a big problem."
Ross said: "Over the course of the season if you look at the number of minutes Jack Baldwin has played, he's played the most accumulative minutes apart from Jon McLaughlin. He's in the main dealt with the challenge, not only playing regularly in the league, but also a very new challenge of playing for a club of this stature. I say it all the time, the rewards are fantastic, the challenges are huge and for some of these young players it's a steep learning curve. They'll learn more about themselves in the periods where they might come under some scrutiny or face criticism than they would in the good times. If they can come through that period they will be better for it, not just as a footballer but as a person. We live in a world where opinion and judgement is offered instantly. There are huge benefits of that, and advantages to it but it is often reactive and emotive. My job as a manager is, I wouldn't say the polar opposite, because you have to have emotion being a manager, but you have to be a lot more balanced. Our analysis of not just the team performance, whoever we play it's always there, it's always consistent and a lot of the opinion on that and the work that's done is of course unseen. You can't have the good parts of it without the challenging part of it, I know how far we've come from the summer. Big parts of our last two performances have been good. The end result will always determine people’s thoughts but there has been a lot of creativity in our last two performances."