Sunderland got back to winning ways with a comprehensive 4 – 1 demolition of Rochdale at the SOL on Saturday. A brace a piece from Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch saw Sunderland cruise to victory and move back up the league to third after a much-improved performance in front of another great crowd in chilly conditions.
Jack Ross had this to say afterwards: “We have to look at this as the response to losing a game last week for the first time and taking that in isolation, to respond by winning 4-1 is very good,” said Ross. “There are always bits of the game you can do better but in the main, I thought we did well today. We were more physically resilient than we had been - last week in particular - and when we do that and encourage the players to do that, we believe we have quality that will come to the fore. Also, what we have done today which we haven’t on many occasions this season is avoid falling behind, and you can see the difference that makes. Even when there’s not a lot in the game in the opening period, it means that when you have a spell in the game when you’re on top and you score then you’re ahead - it’s very simplistic, but it hasn’t been the case very often this season.”
The gaffer also had some kind word for Josh Maja. “There were bits of his early performance that highlighted some things he can still get better at, but I have spoken about his willingness to learn and I sat with him Friday and we looked at bits of his game that he can add to. There are parts I can't help get any better because they are so very good - his ability to finish, for example. His first, the header, was different to any goal he has scored this season. His second, he shifted the ball in a tight area. He has a lot of shots low and hard, gives keepers no time to react. To return the number of goals for a young man this early is terrific. If he can keep it going he will end with a really good total. People will look at the response to us losing last week, and if you take that in isolation, to win the game 4-1 is very good. Again, there are always bits we can do better, but in the main, there were bits we did well. We were a lot more physically resilient than last week in particular, and that was pleasing.”
Ross also spoke about the Didier Ndong situation. Ross said: “There has been no dialogue with me. I did read a report yesterday that one of his representatives had been in contact with me - that is not the case. I know there has been communication with the club, some of his representatives or people who portray themselves as his representatives, but I don't know any more than that. It has been a long-complicated matter, we thought we were getting close to a solution, we will see how that pans out. Certainly today, it is of zero interest to me. We will see how it plays out over the coming days as well.”
Elsewhere, Lynden Gooch reckons he had no intention of leaving Sunderland this summer, despite reports to the contrary. “I knew there would be interest elsewhere but this is the club I’ve been with a really long time and I would do anything to get the club back where it belongs. The manager really made me feel that I would be an integral part of the team from day one. The past two years have been some of the hardest of my life, let alone in my career being involved with two successive relegations. The club obviously means a lot to me. Without the club, I wouldn’t be a professional footballer. They really invested in me and worked to give the best opportunity to have a career in the game. So the club means a lot to me and I hope we can finish the season on a happy note.”
In other news, Gabon media outlets claim that Didier Ndong is on his way back to Wearside to help Sunderland’s promotion push! This massive change of heart is probably no more than an attempt to show he’s available for work when it all goes legal, but the player has been quoted as saying: “I’m ready to see my salary reduced, as long as I’m putting my boots on with Sunderland. I’m ready to fight to get the club back into the second division.”
Meanwhile, Jack Ross has been chatting about Duncan Watmore's recovery. “He’s making really good progress,” said Ross. “He’s joined in with me probably for over a week now, but just bits and pieces depending on what we’re doing. We have a meeting every morning anyway to discuss what we’re doing. Sports scientist] Paul Walsh, who is working with Duncan very closely, on the medical side of it will discuss what we’re doing, how he can get involved and when we take him out. The people he sees externally are also really positive and happy with where his knee is at. I think there’s a duty of care for us because it is his second injury and it is a bad one to get. So there’s no timeframe. I want him back and he wants to be back because he looks at us now and wants to be involved, but I keep stressing to him, there’s no pressure. He’ll get there and I think it’ll be sooner rather than later but I’ve never put a timeframe on it. The next stage will be for him to train fully, probably with the younger players, which I think he is keen on. Psychologically that will be good, slightly less intense and then join us. Even when he’s fit, last time he was probably thrown in quite quickly because of the circumstances. It’s important even when we get to that stage that we have that [cautious] approach because it’ll be better for everyone in the long run. We have a lot of players that like the ball and want to come to the ball, and I think that’s partly why we’re having some issues at the moment.”
All 2,628 tickets for Bradford City away, on Saturday 6 October, are now sold out. You can book transport via ALS here…