Jack Ross has been previewing Saturday's game against Fleetwood. Here are the main points, first up the gaffer is pretty delighted to have most of the players fit, at last! "The players coming back in forward areas is helping us in particular. Josh [Maja] and Chris [Maguire] have done incredibly well to get the points on the board at the moment. We asked an awful lot of them and asked them to do roles at times that were slightly unusual for them and asked them to play in a manner that isn’t always natural to them. Charlie Wyke being fit and Jerome Sinclair being fit just strengthens our options and allows us to change the game a bit better, so that is a massive boost. The other ones just strengthen our options in different areas rather than giving us completely different options. It increases the motivation for the players who are playing in the team to make sure they’re playing well and that’s always a healthy thing to have as a manager."
Ross on the Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong saga: "I think Charlie [Methven] released a statement and from my perspective it remains the same in that it’s gone beyond a station that I can comment on because it’s moved into legal areas. It’s probably easier for me as a manager to deal with it in that sense, and what I've consistently said is that a solution or resolution would help. I think we’ve said that for a while now. My focus and attention has always been on what I’ve had here. I think I’ve been consistent in that message from day one, about taking players how I find them and working with them. Naturally, in the lead up to a game on a Saturday my attention is on that group who are available for this game."
Ross on why we must cut out the bad habit of conceding first and making it hard for ourselves! "There’s always a balance in recognising something that you have to be better at and it becoming something to worry about. You might think it’s the same thing, but I think there is a fine line between the two. We speak about a lot of things post games and pre-games, the good thing is that this group of players don’t look for excuses, I think they recognise there are bits they could do better, there are bits I could do better as a manager. The one thing that’s been different for us is that every team we’ve played against this season at home has approached the game in a different manner. What we’ve learnt in a short period of time is that we have to be able to deal with whatever the opposition provides and on Saturday [against Oxford] we probably didn’t do that very well in the opening period. In other matches we’ve started games ok and there have been circumstances where we’ve conceded. But the great thing is we’ve reacted really well in every game, however it would be remiss to think that’s ok moving forward, we’d like to go ahead in games and stay ahead."
Are Fleetwood any good? "The honest answer is I don’t know because we’ve already seen different teams approach the game in different ways at the Stadium of Light. Oxford were very aggressive and I mean that in the best possible way in terms of how high they pressed us up the pitch and how they approached the game, and that was contrary to how Scunthorpe approached it in the previous game. In terms of our preparation in how we will approach the game, we’re going to do that as much as we can but you can’t always say for certain how they will approach the game at our stadium. What I do know is that if they approach the game in the same manner, we are better prepared prior to the game last week."
In other news, Joey Barton believes his Fleetwood Town’s team is better than Sunderland’s ‘man for man’. “For me, this is just another game. I’ve been there as a player and played derbies at Sunderland. It’s the same as playing another big club like we did against Bradford. On the pitch is where it matters, and I don’t see a David versus Goliath. If anything, I see us just better than them, man for man. Credit to Jack Ross, he’s got the fans coming back to the stadium and the team winning games. It’s not easy to turn around a club which has a habit of losing. It’s just another game for us. I think Sunderland have more to lose in front of their home fans than we do.”
Here’s Jack Ross’ response! "I suppose Saturday will be a determining factor, and the league table at the end of the season will determine that. The one thing I’ve done consistently throughout my management career is never really concern myself with oppositions, other that a professional’s perspective. I prepare myself with how thoroughly we prepare but in terms of what other teams do or where they're at, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s hard enough work at this club, the task at this club and the size of this club, to focus on what I’m doing but I’m looking forward to the game. It’s an opportunity for me to come up against another young manager and I’ve enjoyed all the tests we’ve had this season. We’ve come up against very different characters in the dugout and very different teams and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m sure Saturday will be the same."