Jack Ross reckons that we will get better and better as the season progresses, but that it won’t be easy. "I think there’s still a little bit of an adjustment for some people that feel we will automatically win games comfortably every week," said Ross. "There’s nothing wrong with believing you're going to win every week but it’s tough to do so in this league. There is that argument to say that we haven't been absolutely fantastic in any game, but there are games which have been good and parts of games that have been good. If you break down aspects of our record this season, the number of games we’ve lost (one in the league), wins we’ve had (seven), the number of goals we’ve scored (26), we’ve scored in every game. Even Defensively, I get asked about clean sheets but I think we’ve got the fourth best defence in the league. There’s a lot of things when you break them down individually that I think we’ve been good at. If there is a case we’ll get better, that’s reassuring for me as a manager knowing that we’re sitting where we are in the table and improvement is still there for us."
Ross’ men go into the Doncaster game with pressure on them to win again. Which the mangers sees as positive pressure. “I have commented on it before because the expectancy is something we have had to cope with all season,” he said. “I have adjusted to that and the players know what to expect. It is not like tonight is going to be something we haven’t faced before in terms of the big atmosphere. It is just different because Sunderland are in this league visiting grounds either they haven’t done before or ones they haven’t visited in a long, long time. That creates a certain amount of interest and it ignites interest of home supporters. To be honest, they have responded and given their teams great backing. We are taking another 4,000 to Doncaster so that will no doubt ignite the atmosphere, but we have now adjusted to it and they are used to playing in these types of atmospheres. Doncaster have had a good season to date, they have remained in and around the top five positions of the league. We have been really impressed from what we’ve seen of them. They play in a real positive manner, they try to play, and it should be an environment we enjoy playing in. I expect a difficult game against a team who will only be where they are after 13 games because they are a good side.”
In other news, the gaffer gave an update on the health of Head of Recruitment Tony Coton, who underwent a quintuple heart bypass last month. "I've spoken to him a few times. It was a surprise in terms of how it came around, but he's come through it successfully and is on the mend. He obviously needs to take his time with the recuperation because it was a serious operation. I've spoken to him a lot over text and a couple of times on the phone, he's doing well. The good thing is that he's still capable of doing bits of his work and wants to do bits of it from home."
Ahead of tonight’s trip to Doncaster, George Honeyman is pushing for a start after making positive contributions from the bench against Bradford and Shrewsbury. “I will reward players who are doing well and remain faithful to them,” Ross said. “Likewise, if people take an opportunity it goes from there. It means your team maybe changes a little bit more than some people think necessary but if you get the balance right, it creates an environment where your players have to be bang at it. With George I’m aware of some of the opinions but he’s an absolute dream for a manager. Taking the playing side out of it, how he conducts himself, how he trains, how he works. How he’s taken on the responsibilities as captain, he’s been brilliant for me as a young man. Then on the pitch, the thing is we speak a lot about unselfish work,” Ross added. “We show [the players] a lot of it, the work that is done off the ball to allow other people do things that everyone then says, ‘wow that was great’. That’s not always complimented or commented on, even by managers and coaches. We try to and he’s one of the ones who is brilliant at it. The amount of runs he makes to help others play is incredible. They’re not as obvious as the stuff on the ball, and that’s not to say he doesn’t do good things on the ball because he does.”
With Honeyman out Lee Cattermole was captain at Shrewsbury. “I had a chat to him on Friday and how he felt about taking the armband, and he was happy to do it,” Ross said. “He was delighted that George has got the role and they’re very close anyway. He was happy for Max to do it as well. It was his 200th start as well, I wasn’t aware of that but it was a fitting way for that to happen.”
Here's some stats for your match build up this evening
Doncaster won all 4 of their league games in September netting 11 goals.
So far in October they've only picked up 3 points from a possible 12, conceding 10 goals.
Discipline wise, they've picked up 37 yellow cards and 1 red.
The stats indicate they are notoriously slow starters to games. They've only been in front in only 21% of their games after 45 minutes.
Their danger man is John Marquis. 16 appearances this season with 10 goals in all competitions.
Elsewhere, The Red and White Army will continue their partnership with the Sunderland Foodbank by holding their second collection before this Saturday's game against Southend United. A group of volunteers from the independent supporter’s organisation and the Foodbank will be at the Fanzone from noon, and are calling on fans to donate food, toiletries and cash.
Sunderland Foodbank Coordinator Kate Townsend said: "We are delighted to be partnering with RAWA again. We received an overwhelming response at the last collection - a van full of food and lots of cash! I'm not a football fan myself and you sometimes hear less than complimentary things about supporters. My experience of Sunderland fans since we started this partnership has been nothing but kindness and a will to help those less fortunate.”
Chairman of RAWA Andrew Hird acknowledged the huge support from SAFC: "This partnership is a new initiative for RAWA and a bit of a new direction for us. The Club have backed us from day one without us even asking. They've provided the space to collect in the Fanzone and at the last collection, before the Fleetwood match, the academy came along to help. We had members of the under 23 and under 18 squad loading food onto the van and rattling collection buckets. It was fantastic to see supporters and players volunteering together like that. It perfectly illustrates the "one club" philosophy that the owners are keen to instil.”
Sunderland AFC Managing Director Tony Davison added: “One of the best things about Sunderland is the community spirit and a passion to help those in need. Working together, players, staff and fans can make a real and positive difference to our community. The Red and White Army’s partnership with Sunderland Foodbank is a fantastic initiative and we encourage our supporters attending the game on Saturday to donate what they can.”
RAWA attended a national Fans Supporting Foodbanks conference in Liverpool last week as partnerships between supporters and local foodbanks are springing up all around the country. Sadly, the demand for foodbanks is growing and predicted to get worse. Sunderland supporters can do their bit for the local community by donating at the Fanzone before the Southend match.