Jack Ross is doing all he can to get the most out of Jerome Sinclair. The hope is that now he’s netted his first SAFC goal, more will follow. But as he showed against Peterborough, his strength and hold up play could also be vital to us. “We had conversations with him when he first came about the stage of his career he’s at,” said Ross. “He’s still a very young man, but we’ve talked to him about how things have gone for him previously. He needs to be playing more. He hasn’t managed that, although that’s primarily due to how things have panned out with injury. The great thing given he’s a loan player has been his attitude and approach to training. He’s conducted himself well and the way he communicates with me is great. That gave me a bit of comfort during this period, that he would be okay. It’s an important season for him. He needs to be playing regularly and scoring goals. I wouldn’t say he needs to kick-start his career because he’s already attracted the attention of a big club, but he needs to prove he’s a proper player, and the only way to do that is by playing games. When you’re judged at the end of your career, it’s not on the clubs you’ve played for, but on the number of games you’ve played. I think if you’re truthful as a player, that’s what you look back on as well. I don’t know what he was like before, but as a young man, he strikes me as fairly mature. Whether he’s developed that just recently, I don’t know, but Tuesday was an opportunity for him to be in the team and he’s made it very difficult for him not to be in the team again now (at Bradford). He’s got to keep doing that.”
Reece James is another player that Ross will be hoping to step up in the absence of both Bryan Oviedo and Denver Hume. “I had a conversation with him earlier this week to tell him the opportunity is there for him now. Part of me is pleased that it’s come around because of how he’s conducted himself. It sounds very blasé, but now it’s up to him. He’s got an opportunity now to establish himself in the team and stay there. Hopefully, the players have already seen from me that I’m consistent in my selection with players who do well. If players are doing well and deserve to stay in the team, they stay there.”
Dylan McGeouch may have not shown his top form since he returned from injury, but Jack Ross has no doubts about his quality. “Dylan is really conscientious about his football,” Ross said. “He thinks deeply about it and he’s quite hard on himself. Even the other night (against Peterborough) he was hard on himself because he still feels he can have much more of an impact. But he is getting there and I’ve been pleased with how he has done. It’s a different challenge for him, a different style of game, but it’s been pleasing that he has managed to get minutes under his belt in this period although we’ll assess things this weekend because of the number of minutes he has played and that other midfielders have played. I think he is feeling more and more comfortable. There’s always an adjustment period when you come to any new club, and there’s an adjustment period when you move to a different area. He’s getting there, which is good, but he also believes he has an awful lot more to give. So do I, but I would always be very positive about him when I speak about him. I’m sure if he was sitting here, he would be a lot more critical of himself. In some ways that’s good, though, because it shows that he has high standards and he feels he has a way to go before he has reached those standards here.”
“He is feeling fitter and stronger with every game,” Ross added. “I said before the game that I had a feeling it would be quite stretched and it would suit us, and that was how it turned out. In most of the games this season, we have tended to play better in the second half because that’s when the games have tended to become more stretched. It was more open on Tuesday, and I think Dylan thrives in that situation. But he’s going to have to adapt to all types of games because it won’t always be like that. That’s why when people ask whether it is harder to play against teams high up in the league or lower down, I don’t have any worries about playing teams who are up high because I think it brings out the best in us. I think that showed on Tuesday.”
Jon McLaughlin is delighted to be back in the Scottish set up and is determined to enjoy the experience. “It’s great to be back involved with them,” he said. “I’ve only recently started to get involved so it’s still really special for me. I’m sure the other lads are grateful for the break that myself and Tom have got them! Scotland have got some very good goalkeepers, Craig and Allan McGregor at Rangers. They’ve got an awful lot of caps between them, massive experience they’ve had it boxed off for years and years now. For me it’s about enjoying the experience and whatever comes of it, enjoy being in those surroundings, training with that calibre of player and hope that it can add something to me as a goalkeeper that I can bring something back to Sunderland. I’m sure he still has really fond memories of his time here, he was a big signing at the time and had some good times, so it’ll be interesting to get his insight. It’s a great bunch of lads there so I’m looking forward to it.
He Scot is also hoping that we can get a few more clean sheets, starting today at Bradford. “You’ve got to hope that you can start to turn those nearly performances into complete ones, getting those clean sheets. At the end of the day we’re a team that’s always to hurt teams going the other way a lot, so that makes us more open to the counter attack, that’s just the nature of it. Peterborough are the same in that regard. You won’t always have the back door shut because that’s not what we’re about. We’ve just to become a bit more ruthless in games, we’ve been unfortunate in some respects because any mistakes the lads have made have been ruthlessly punished, but it’s something for us to be working on, we’re very aware of the areas we need to improve. It’s not for lack of trying or understanding, we know what it’s about. It’s a long season, until you’ve got past the halfway point you don’t really know where teams are so you can’t panic, you just keep plugging away. Don’t look at the points gap or anything like that. We have to back ourselves, do the work right.”