Jack Ross has given his pre-Charlton presser. We’ve picked the meat off the bones for you, so here goes…
On the story so far and Saturday’s opposition: "I think pre-season periods are long and eventful - such as this one! I think when you get towards the end of that then the excitement of the first game is always there. We’ve put a lot of work in over these last six or seven weeks as the players have come back in. It was nice for them to train at the Stadium of Light on Thursday and get that feel for the pitch because obviously we haven’t managed to play a game there. We keep saying all the time that we’d like to be further ahead in terms of where we’re at, but equally the excitement doesn’t dull nonetheless. First of all, Charlton is a really tough opening game for us when you look at the teams that filled the top positions in the table last year, it’s a team that obviously reached the playoffs and a big club as well, probably one that has went through some sort of turbulent period in recent times and they’ve also had injuries to contend with during pre-season. So, there’s a little bit of synergy between the two clubs in that respect. The one difference being that they obviously enjoyed a relatively successful period season last year and we didn’t. I think it’s a tough game for us and I would imagine that they’re a club who believe that they will challenge again in those automatic or playoff spots."
Ross on Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven: "I think what they have done is be very open in their communication and that probably goes against the grain a little bit in terms of what football clubs are like nowadays, and by all accounts a little bit against the grain of what it’s been like here in recent times. I’m probably fairly comfortable with it because I try to be fairly open in my own communication. I’m learning all the time, and I’m sure they are as well but I don’t think that anybody can argue with the atmosphere and the positivity that they’ve managed to generate - which is credit to them because having two consecutive relegations and managing to create this buzz around the place just adds to the expectations upon my shoulders."
On his new captain: "I’m actually lucky that I think I’ve found the captain, in George Honeyman, that ticks all of those boxes - normally you might have to give a little on some of them and they might have strengths in other areas. I know when I spoke to him about it he fulfilled the role in pre-season and we’d assessed how he’d handled that, and I spoke to him properly and he was thrilled to bits - it means an awful lot to him. I’m sure if you speak to him individually you’ll find that from him. He’s got a massive incentive to be the Sunderland captain that lifts the trophy - and its a possibility - and that for him is a huge carrot. I look forward to seeing how he grows with it and I look forward to him hopefully being a successful Sunderland captain - because I know that’s certainly his aim."
On aiming high: “I don’t really mind the expectation and ambition, in fact I enjoy it. I’ve always been prepared to meet that head on. It’s up to me to prove myself good enough to deal with it. I don’t think you should shy away from it, and if I wanted to shy away from it, I wouldn’t have taken this job on because I know there’s always going to be an expectation and pressure on whoever is managing this club. No matter what division it is in. The supporters are that passionate about the club, they want it to win every week. As the season unfolds, whether it’s on a good day or a bad day, I think you’ll get the same consistent answer from me. The expectation and pressure is always going to be there, it’s just about how you deal with it and use it in a positive way. I know how big the club is, and I knew the resources we would have at our disposal, but I know the club has had a couple of very disappointing years for a whole variety of reasons. The turnaround is not something that can be done overnight. Naively, you think you can wave a magic wand and everything will be resolved right away, but then you start to understand some of the challenges, and some of them are not ones that I can control but there are others involved in the running of the club who can. It will be an ongoing process, but we will get there because everything that you need to get there is in place.”
On the reaction he’s had from the players: “They’ve been really good and really responsive. They’re happy, they’ve enjoyed it, and they’ve worked hard. That’s a good starting point for me. At the moment, it’s still really about building a trust between my staff and the players. That’s an important thing to develop to begin with because once you get that, you can start to influence them in terms of how you want to do things and how you want to play. That’s been going relatively well. The one thing I’ve said to them as a group is that we can’t affect anything that went before – we can only affect what lies ahead.”
In other news, Lamine Kone has revealed all to the French media following his loan move to Strasbourg: "There have been three offers, from Everton, £18m, £20m and £25m. Six months before, Sunderland had bought me for €6m from Lorient. It was amazing. I started with Châteauroux, the second division club in France. It was amazing to see this offer. I was coming out of a period where on my first matches in England, I scored three goals and an assist. It was huge. At that time, I missed the train [of joining Everton]. It was a turning point. They [the leaders of Sunderland] blocked my transfer. I could have known another career, that’s for sure. But nothing is lost. Strasbourg gave me an opportunity to get back on my feet.”