Here’s Jack Ross pre Lincoln press conference in full…
Do you feel like the team is getting there now?
“I think our overall record has been decent. To have lost one in 13 games for most people is a good start. I do think we’ll keep improving. If you look at the make-up of our recruitment in the summer and look at the starting XI last Saturday, it was the first time that many of those players have been up to match speed and match fitness because they were recruited late in the window. We feel as if we’re progressing, but we can still improve as well, which is encouraging.”
It was another decent size rebuild in the summer as well...
“Yeah. It’s not ideal. You don’t consistently want to turnover a large amount of players throughout any window. I don’t know the exact numbers, but with the big turnover last summer, it made for another big one this summer as well. What we want to get to as a club is to have a lot less of a turnover because you need to have a continuity about your squad in order to try and build something sustainable. That’s what the successful clubs do, and if you look at the teams who’ve made progress through the leagues they’ve done that as well. That’s the middle to long-term ambition for us, but at the moment, in the circumstances of the last two summers we’ve had to do that because the club is still going through a transitional period.”
Consistency can be key now going forward?
“Yeah. I think we saw in this league last year, there were teams that got off to a flyer and struggled to maintain it. It’s difficult in this division. Likewise, there were teams that got off to a slow start and then put together a really strong run. We’re in a very similar position to where we were at this stage last season, and last season we were there or thereabouts until that very last part of the season. So the challenge for us is to improve upon that. Last season for different circumstances people believed we made a good start, even though we had an identical start in terms of points. Like last year, the start gives us a platform to go and be successful. We’ve just got to make sure as the season unfolds we take that and we don’t fall short.”
Any news on takeovers?
“No. I’m certainly none the wiser. I’m not avoiding the question. It’s genuinely the truth. I’ve no idea. Sorry.”
Is it a concern for you?
“I’ve said often enough, it would be very weak of me as a manager to use it as an excuse. But anything that involves uncertainty at any club, and we’ve had it for a sustained period now if you go back to last season when there was speculation about potential new owners, you would like that confirmation of stability if you like. But the truth is it doesn’t affect how I go about my day-to-day business. Until anything is concluded one way or another, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen.”
What's the latest with injuries?
“Aiden [McGeady] and Marc [McNulty] both trained today. We’ll see how they react to the training session today and then decide over the course of tomorrow as to their involvement at the weekend. Hopefully they’ll make the squad if there’s no reaction to what they did today. It was nice to have them back on the training pitch, and it will just depend on how they react to what they did today.”
The benefit of the squad is that there's no need to rush anyone back...
“Yeah, it helps when you go and win a game the previous game. There are always improvements you can make in a game, but in terms of getting the result it does help with feeling content with what the players produced. The players we mentioned Marc [McNulty] and Aiden [McGeady] are both good players who’ve had good seasons to date as well, so I’d rather have them back sooner rather than later but, with players in reasonable form themselves, it certainly lessons the need to rush them back too quickly.”
With Marc McNulty though, the other strikers are finding it difficult to get goals so far?
“There’s different ways of judging strikers all the time. Their overall play and how they bring others into the game and how they allow others to flourish. But you’re right to point out that strikers will always be judged on the amount of goals they score. They know that. Certainly in terms of goals per game ratio, Marc has been the most prolific this season, but that’s not to say the others haven’t played their part - particularly Charlie [Wyke]’s performances in recent weeks. But having Marc part of the squad again is a massive boost for us.”
What have you made of Lincoln this season?
“The managerial change affects things a bit. Michael has only had one game in charge - ignoring the EFL Trophy game on Tuesday night. He was in stands for the Oxford game and not really in charge. It means that what we can use as reference is less. There’s been slight tweaks to what they do. It hasn’t changed much in terms of team selection, and although they had the EFL Trophy game in midweek I’m sure Michael [Appleton] will look at this as being his first proper home match. So with that in mind, and the fact that it’s us who’s coming, we expect an intense atmosphere. They will look to produce a strong performance as you would want as a new manager in your first match in charge at home. But we’ve prepared just as consistently as we do for any game, and we go in in a good frame of mind after the last few matches.”
What was the thinking in postponing the Fleetwood game?
“I spoke about it a few weeks ago and it isn’t straight forward because we’re aware we don’t want to build up the fixtures. But we’ve had three call-ups of players who were all in our match day squad on Saturday, two of which made up out starting back five. Yes, we’ve got a squad that could deal with the changes in terms of personnel, but there’s a potential disruption to everything you’re doing and your team. There’s pros and cons. Whatever decision we made there would have been those in agreement and those in disagreement. Subsequently, if we had played the game and not got a positive result there would be plenty of people saying we should have postponed it. It’s one of those. You make a balanced decision on it and as a club you do what you feel is right and once you make that decision you have to stick by it.”
Do you think the league table has settled down yet, ten games in?
“I think it’s starting to take shape, but as we alluded to at the start, there are those clubs that have a slowish start and then produce, certainly in the case of last season, unbelievable runs to propel them up the table. And likewise, early pace-setters often drift away. I still think there’ll be one or two surprises over the course of the next ten games, but I think those that are forming the top ten at the moment will believe that they can stay there or thereabouts over the course of the season.”
Identical points to last season, but the noise around it is different. Do you accept why that is?
“I don’t think it’s here nor there if I accept it or not. It’s there. You’ve just got to deal with that. Our record at this stage is similar to this stage last season, my win ratio at this club is pretty high - I think it’s third highest in the history of the club - and I think it’s going to be my 75th game in charge on Saturday and I’ve only lost nine. So, it’s not a bad record. Whether I agree with the reaction to the season so far makes not a jot of difference. I’ve just got to keep doing the job as best I can, and ultimately keep winning games. And if I do that, hopefully some of that might dampen down. The work that I do every single day is geared up to us winning matches and being successful and it’s never going to change whether I’m praised or criticised. I’m very driven to be successful and that will remain regardless.”
Actually, a Sunderland manager getting to 75 games is an achievement...
“Yeah [laughs]. It’s a very good point.”
What do you make of the Carlos Edwards mural at ALS and the raising awareness of mental health through football?
“The recent correlation between sport and mental health in terms of raising awareness of mental health issues for wider society, and particularly men for whom traditionally it’s been a difficult subject, is good. It’s a subject I’ve always been interested in when I first retired from playing I worked with the PFA and it was an area that I tried to drive in Scotland. I think the benefit that football, and sport in general, can provide to raise awareness is terrific. I suppose the flip-side of that is how much your emotions are dictated by what goes on on a match day. So, speaking purely about football, players and coaches are always reminded that the scope of emotions that they have are so big, they can’t confuse that with what’s normal, but also, they can’t get too carried away with their emotions as well. You could apply that across to wider society as well. It’s impossible for me to say how much our results impact upon people’s life that follows the club, but it’s part of the attraction of sport - that range of emotions you get. But I suppose it could be the negative side of it as well. But certainly the increased exposure of it and the responsibility that sport has taken on to help people who have issues is terrific.”
Goals like that Carlos Edwards goal can really lift spirits, can't they?
“Yeah. I’ve said this loads of times of being a football fan. The reason I’m a football fan is yes, I love playing it, but also because I’ve never not loved that rush yet seeing the team you’re involved with or support be successful. The rush of scoring a goal is hard to describe to people, and certainly difficult to replicate in any other part of your life. It might be different because of how involved I am in the sport, but the highs you get from a goal, supporters will talk about that for many years to come. I suppose the challenge for us is to try and replicate those highs as many times as possible throughout the course of the season.”