After a whirlwind week on Wearisde, it's fair to say that the vast majority of Sunderland fans have been pretty sold on the idea of Jack Ross. But, as much as we should know better we convince ourselves that every new manager is the best thing since sliced bread, so we reasoned that it would be best to speak to someone who has actually watched Jack Ross's St Mirren's side play football and we found just the man in Deputy Head of Sport at The Scotsman and Scotland On Sunday, Graham Lindsay;
1) Jack Ross seemed to move very quickly from being an outside contender for the Sunderland job, to actually being appointed. Were you surprised to see him end up on Wearside rather than at Ipswich or another Championship suitor?
It had been thought that he was on his way to Ipswich and, had Sunderland not come in for him, he probably would have gone there, both for the opportunity and the massive increase in salary. Personally, I thought he should wait, for a "bigger" job, one of the Sheffield clubs for example. Sunderland certainly fit that criterion, despite dropping down a league and I'm sure he simply could not turn down the chance to revive such a massive club.
2) His achievements at St Mirren have undoubtedly been impressive, but before arriving there he was a coach at Dumbarton and Hearts before taking over at Alloa. Can you tell me a bit about how he fared at those clubs?
The end of his playing career was ruined by injury, but he was involved in the players' union, taking a leadership role in the dressing room and was one of those players who always seemed destined for coaching.
At Dumbarton, he was No 2 to Ian Murray, who was very well regarded at the time but whose managerial career has since stalled. At Hearts, he was on the coaching staff of Robbie Neilson during a pretty successful period for the club. They won the 2014-15 Championship title by 21 points from Hibs and finished 24 points ahead of Rangers then re-established themselves strongly in the Premiership. In his short time at Alloa, he produced a rapid turnaround in fortunes for a relegated club. A ten-game unbeaten run at the start of the following season got St Mirren's attention.
3) When he arrived at St Mirren they were sat bottom of the First division, before keeping them up and subsequently getting them promoted. When he initially appointed did he implement his preferred style of play or was it more functional to begin with?
Very few people gave him a chance of keeping them up and his style did not produce immediate results, leading to some anger among the fans. The improvement in performances and, subsequently, results were not achieved by "grinding them out", so to speak. In fact, the improvement was so marked that it led some (myself included) to tip them for the title the following season. That prediction, of course, came true even though I failed to put any money on it...
4) Following on from that, he seems to favour a very attacking, passing style of play. What was his St Mirren team like to watch?
They operated with a wide attacker in Lewis Morgan who happened to be the best player in the league, which was a big help. Morgan is now at Celtic. Full-backs also encouraged to get forward. They were the top scorers in the Championship.
5) My only real concern with Jack Ross is the major overhaul of the playing staff he will have to undertake at Sunderland. Do you think he's capable of pulling it off and what's his record like in the transfer market?
He's never had money to spend before, but he took Gavin Reilly, a striker who struggled the previous season at my club, Dunfermline, and got goals out of him, although he faded as the season went on. He picked up another forward, Danny Mullen, from Livingston in January and he is, in my opinion, one of the better players in the Championship. I expect him to do well in the top flight next season. Right back Cammy Smith came on loan from Hearts and has been a big success at St Mirren. However, he has not spent big money on big players so far in his career.
6) With this in mind, are there any players from the Scottish Leagues or indeed St Mirren themselves who Ross may look to bring to Sunderland?
John McGinn is a reputed target and is one of the best midfielders in Scotland. Great on the ball, drives his team forward at every opportunity and has a tremendous shot on him. Young midfielder Kyle Magennis is the only one at Saints that has been linked with a move to Wearside so far. Central defender Harry Davis was a big hit on loan at Saints from Crewe but went back down south at the end of the season for family reasons and is currently without a club. Ross is still a big fan, though.
7) It is evident that Jack Ross is very keen on fan engagement which matches the vision of our new owners. He certainly seemed popular with St Mirren fans. Did he do anything specifically to get the fans onside, or was his popularity mainly down to on field performance?
When results didn't turn around immediately on his appointment at Saints, the fans - already fed up at being bottom of the league - weren't slow to let him know what they thought. On one occasion, he went into the crowd at the end of a game to speak to a particularly vocal punter. It wasn't a confrontation, though, Ross reasoned with the guy, appealed for unity behind the team and won the respect of a lot of the Saints fans. Managers who win games and titles are always popular, obviously, but Ross got the fans well and truly behind him and the team.
8) Finally, how do you think he will do here?
There are many examples of managers with success in Scotland failing in the English lower leagues. Derek McInnes at Bristol City and Robbie Neilson at MK Dons being a couple of recent examples. I guess the jury is still out on Alex Neil at Preston after initial success at Norwich. What I can say is that, in terms of personality and football knowledge, Ross seems to be as well-equipped as anyone to succeed. Had he not gone to Ipswich or Sunderland, he would probably have got the next "big" job that came up in Scotland. Given a supportive chairman and the level of transfer budget which has been talked about, I'd be amazed if he didn't at least make the play-offs but then I suppose that is the very minimum expected of him. He certainly has the confidence to deal with that level of expectation.
Thanks to Graham for taking the time to answer our questions, let's hope that Ross can deliver on his undoubted promise and guide us back to the Championship at the first time of asking. If you want to see more of Graham's work, be sure to check him out on Twitter, his handle is, @GrahamLindsay1.