Jack Ross reckons he’s still looking to strengthen our forward line before the end of the loan deadline today. He currently have Josh Maja, Charlie Wyke and Jerome Sinclair, with Sinclair on the sidelines and Wyke just getting over a knee injury so we’re desperately short up-front, something the gaffer will look to address today. “Ideally, we would like another one in the forward area because it would give us four,” said Ross, “If you break us down positionally, I know it sounds very old-fashioned, but we’ve probably got two for every position barring the strikers. If we had another one in and around that it would help, but I think we’ve done really well to get to this stage of the season with the results we’ve had, knowing what we’ve been missing from the squad. That’s encouraging, and gives you a bit more comfort if the window closes and we are where we are now.”
In other news both Charlie Wyke and defender Tom Flannagan will be hoping they’re included in the squad to face Oxford this weekend as the pair return to full fitness. Ross explained: “If they don’t have a reaction from Thursday’s session and Friday then we’ll look include them in the squad. Whether that’s in the 18 or just around it we’ll see. They’ve done a lot of conditioning work it is just building up the football side.”
Another player knocking on the managers door for a start is Dylan McGeouch after impressing against Wimbledon. Jack Ross admitted that the midfielder’s had been rushed back too fast in the past and is taking thinks a bit more cautiously with the former Hibs man. “Dylan being back available has been a boost for us,” explained Ross. “I think the length of time he was out, it has helped to be able to drip feed him back into the side. From his history in his career, sometimes he’s been thrown back in quickly and it’s been problematic for him. I still think he’s getting back to full fitness because he had a period out and also, he had missed a bit of pre-season by the time he came and joined with us. It’s been a little bit fragmented but he’s trained well again this week and he’s certainly in contention for Saturday because of the contribution he’s made off the bench. But a bit like Charlie’s situation, it’s fantastic to have players of that quality now back in and around the squad.”
Ross has also backed Alim Ozturk to come good after the Turk’s rough start to his SAFC career: “He’s a really nice young man Alim, and he takes his football really seriously,” Ross said. “He’s felt the disappointment. His overall performance against Charlton was OK, it was one individual error that probably masked elements of the performance that were fine. Not in my eyes obviously but in terms of the general perception. Football is fickle, quick judgements are made and it takes a lot longer to turn that around. Psychologically though it was great for him to come on and make a contribution as we turned the game around. To deal with the challenges he faced, because it wasn’t easy. I’m pleased for him and as a manager it is good because it just reinforces the overall message that it will be the whole squad that gives us success. We’ve already seen that.”
Jack Ross expects Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo to stay at the club at least until Christmas. Hurrah! “I don’t envisage not having them, but I’ve been surprised before,” said Ross. “As things stand, there’s nothing on the table for either player. I would obviously prefer to have them available because they’ve made very positive contributions to date. They’re good players. I came into the job on an understanding that there was a group of players who, where they were at contractually, they might have to move on. As a manager, you could say I would rather they didn’t, but my job is to try to help take the whole club forward. I’ve always taken every player as I’ve found them. I didn’t make pre-judgements. Some of the players I was glad to get rid of, and others, every time I’ve seen them train and play, I’ve thought I’d like it if they stayed, but I understood they might not. With Lee in particular, the circumstances have evolved and as the situation has settled down, it has helped me use him a bit more. We speak all the time, and have tried to manage the situation. Hopefully, the way we’ve managed it has helped him make the kind of positive contribution he’s been making on the pitch and in training.”
Ross also gave an update on the Djilobodji and Ndong situation. “I’ve spoken often enough about the situation with Djilobodji and Ndong, and their absence from training for the whole of the summer, and it’s in the best interests of all parties that the situation is resolved,” he said. “That’s taken up a huge amount of work, although not for me. It’s been a lot of frustrating work at times, but by the time the deadline passes, I’d be very hopeful that we will bring a resolution to that. Ideally, we would like another one in the forward area because it would give us four,” said the Sunderland boss, “If you break us down positionally, I know it sounds very old-fashioned, but we’ve probably got two for every position barring the strikers. If we had another one in and around that it would help, but I think we’ve done really well to get to this stage of the season with the results we’ve had, knowing what we’ve been missing from the squad. That’s encouraging, and gives you a bit more comfort if the window closes and we are where we are now.”
Bali Mumba has been called into the England U18 squad and will be unavailable for the Fleetwood Town match next weekend. Meanwhile, Elliot Embleton has been called up to the U20 side, but was loaned out to Grimsby yesterday, so congratulations to the lad, but it doesn’t really affect us!