Jack Ross had a day off media duties today and sent his assistant James Fowler along to preview the Coventry City clash.
Happy with where you're at right now?
“Promotion has been our target from the start of the season and currently we find ourselves in those top two positions. There are six big games to go and it’s all to play for. In the last ten days coming off the cup final disappointment we’ve had some tough games so to take seven points from those games we’re relatively pleased.”
Thoughts reflecting on Tuesday's draw?
“You’ve got to give credit to Burton. I thought they were very good, and that run of games maybe caught up with us a little bit. We looked a little, not so much physically tired, but mentally tired for sure. Decision making during the game probably wasn’t where it needed to be. But from the run of games we’ve had since the cup final, seven points, I think we’d have taken that.”
Given the state of the club last summer, would a play-off spot be seen as success?
“Right from the beginning the manager has always said about promotion and that has been the aim since day one. The cup final was a bonus. To get to the cup final you obviously want to win it while you are there, but the main focus should be to get promotion. We’re in the automatic spots right now and we hope to continue our current form and remain there.”
Another two big home games coming now...
“Yeah, two very big games. Coventry are a good team who are in good form right now. We had a tough game against them down there. It’s quite a young squad they have but we’ve watched a recent game and they play some good football. So we know it won’t be easy. I think they’ll believe that if they can have a strong run they can just nick into the play-offs and therefore they will be dangerous. But we’re at home and we hope to have a big crowd as well for the final push between now and the end of the season, and that will hopefully get us over the line.”
Have the fans got a part to play?
“Yeah, the fans have been huge for us. They’ve travelled in numbers as well. Considering some of the distances involved, they’ve sold out every away ground they’ve been too. And obviously they’ve been great at home too. They’re going to play a key part in the run in because the boys will be feeling tired and hopefully that bit of vocal support that we’ve had all season continues and we get over the line.”
Are you surprised there's been no discontent from fans at all?
“The club is massive and it finds itself in League One, which means the expectation on us is massive. That’s something that we’ve had to deal with from day one. There’s been a lot of changes gone on behind the scenes that most won’t see or know about. Some of it is just private stuff you deal with and don’t disclose it in public. It’s been a big change in a quick time period for the club, dropping from the Premier League down to League One, and then you have the change in ownership and management as well, plus the big turnaround in the squad as well. We weren’t sure exactly where we were going to be squad-wise until the very first game of the season because about 10 or 11 came in. So it’s been a big turnaround, but everyone has just been so focused on achieving promotion, and hopefully that pays off at the end of the season.”
Jack Ross has done a great job, hasn't he?
“Yeah I’ve been working with Jack for over two years now and he continues to impress me everyday with the way he comes in, his training, his management of the group, the way he speaks to the press and with the fans too. I think he has been a good example of a younger manager/coach coming in. He’s very hands on around the club as well and he likes to know what’s going on elsewhere., not just on the pitch. On the training ground, the way he’s handled coming to a club this size and with all the trouble that existed, it’s a massive credit to him and we’re just here to support him the best we can.”
Does he have much of a life outside of football?
“Not much! He sets high standards and he leads by example with them. We’ve got a hard-working group of coaches here and we share as much as we can, but he is always first one in and last one out. That’s not something that’s always noticed from outside the club either, but the players and the staff and the chairman and the board know how hard he is working to bring success to Sunderland.”
“Injuries are largely much the same as they were. One or two have been back in doing light training today, but Dylan McGeouch has got a strain from Tuesday night and will miss the weekend. Chris Maguire trained today. That’s the first time he’s been back on the training pitch. We’re glad to see him back, but he’s still a little short of fitness and match sharpness. We’ll see how he’s feeling today and tomorrow after training. He’s been out a while and once you come back in within the group you see where you are match sharpness wise. We’re working with him to get him back as quickly as we can. McGeady and Cattermole are still injury doubts as well. Still got niggles and will be assessed over the next 24 hours to see how they are for Saturday.”