We need to sign someone. Urgently. And it’s someone who’ll never play and will receive almost no credit from outside the club.
We need to get someone to help Jack Ross.
A fellow former St Mirren manager was at Manchester United for 27 years but would be the first to admit he couldn’t do it by himself. His recruitment of coaches was as well considered and balanced as his recruitment of players, looking at his own needs and weaknesses when recruiting.
He made sure he had skilled deputies with Kidd, McLaren, Queiroz, Smith and Phelan fulfilling the role at various times. Interesting that, at first, Ferguson brought his friends and colleagues down from Scotland to be his coaches and assistants but realised that, to achieve greater success he needed different people around him and they were moved on or into different roles.
After 5 years and 2 trophies with Archie Knox he brought in others and, over 22 years, won 23 further major trophies.
I like Jack Ross. I think he’s the right man to manage Sunderland and I think he has the potential in his style, his beliefs and approach to be a very successful manager for the club. But I’m often struck by how alone he seems to be.
Ferguson once said that Kidd was good at a lot of things but one of his greatest skills was telling him if he was wrong. I’m not convinced that Fowler, Potter and Samson fulfil that role.
When Jack Ross isn’t sure about something, I wonder where he turns for guidance.
In the Checkatrade Final he went to make a substitution, then didn’t and we played with no striker for a period of time. After a strong tactical performance away at Portsmouth, trying to stop a slow team on a tight pitch, we played the same team at Wembley on a big pitch against a quick breaking team. That decision must have been Ross’ and I blame him for it. But I wonder what conversations led to that decision in the days running up to the final.
The backroom staff are not especially experienced but anyone could have spotted that that was not the right decision and Ross’ loyalty to the team who’d got him to Wembley, while admirable, was misplaced. Of course, I wasn’t in the room, perhaps James Fowler said ‘that’s a stupid idea’ and was ignored. If that’s the case we have a bigger issue to deal with!
But my gut feeling is that Ross simply doesn’t get the help he needs in terms of team selection, coaching ideas and man management. My gut feeling is that Ross has people who put the cones out and say ‘yes boss’ as and when called upon - mates from Ross’ footballing past, wearing the shirt but offering little else.
The role of an assistant doesn’t make them lesser people. The fact that three of Ferguson’s assistants ended up managing international teams highlights that (though I wish one of them hadn’t). They need to be a support when support is needed, a link between players and the manager, a sounding board for ideas, a replacement in certain situations if the manager is doing something else all on top of the obvious coaching and developing role.
Managing a football club in 2019 is more than a full time role. How often does Ross have time to sit down with Coton or Reid or the academy coaches? Who is taking training or scouting or reviewing stats while Ross considers the wider footballing aspects of the club?
Or is Ross focusing on training and scouting meaning there’s no one to look at the academy, under 23 players and first team strategically? Some would argue that’s where a director of football comes in but I’m not convinced that’s necessary.
I've wondered a few times over the last year whether Jack Ross would benefit from a more experienced ear to bend, a bit like Saxton was for Reid or Taylor was for Clough. I think O’Neill would have done better at Sunderland with Robertson to help him. Look at how Mourinho fared without Rui Faria.
Do you think Sacko ever said ‘yes, Peter’ if he was thinking different? How often did you see Clough and Taylor deep in conversation in apparent disagreement over what should be done?
I don’t know Jack Ross’ backroom staff but, watching from afar, I’ve seen nothing to suggest they help him when he needs it most. The pressure of the Sunderland job must be immense and he’s carrying it by himself. It’s no wonder he has moments of madness from time to time.
I firmly believe we have a squad and a manager who can win this league but I think without the extra jigsaw piece that links the two, we won’t move forwards from last season.
We don’t need Ross out as some seem to be suggesting. We need someone else in. An experienced campaigner who is his own man, will answer back and can be trusted to take on some of the burden. Probably a former manager in his own right, ideally with experience of English football and what it takes to succeed. I’ll leave it to you to come up with the names…