Pre Accy Craic

Well, we are Accrington bound today, where we will have 2,374 of the 5,000 crowd, plus a few that managed to get tickets in the home end. Jack Ross has, once again, been singing the praises of our travelling support: “I have not been surprised really. People have often asked me what the club is like here. I say you don’t understand how big it is it until you are in it. I think with the fan base, you don’t appreciate how passionate they are until you are lucky to be in this job, like me. I mean that across the North-East really, not just at this club, the passion for football is here. It’s a bit like Celtic and Rangers in Scotland, I don’t think you understand it until you are right in amongst it. What Rangers supporters showed during that period, the synergy is here. They have shown an unbelievable loyalty because it was not just away from home. That period Rangers were getting 40-50,000 for home games in League Two in Scotland. That was probably a reflection of the defiance, that this is ‘our club’. It is a bit like that here at Sunderland now, people will point to us doing OK which helps but it is still a ridiculous show of support and loyalty for League One. That is what probably sets Sunderland apart from other clubs, to be able to get that support in these circumstances, to still come with the potential to get bigger. It has become the norm for us because of the numbers we take away from home, we have got used to dealing with that and that bit of adrenaline is brings. The away games that aren’t sold out feel different, like the Walsall game in the cup, but we thrive off the games that are sold out. Sometimes the size of the ground can make the following feel bigger. You will feel more intensity and the players should go and enjoy it. When you speak about them, and you are complimentary, I don’t want to be patronising in any manner because their success has been deserved. This season has been encouraging as well. Everyone deserves credit for their success. How they have progressed is fantastic and Saturday is a big occasion for them, in terms of attendance etc. We are all looking forward to it. Accrington play nice football, I have said that. It will be a really competitive game because they are very good side. And they won’t just park the bus, I’ve felt most teams in this league have taken that approach with us.”

Meanwhile, Jack Ross has been chatting about his favourite child, Bali Mumba, who is expected to be on the bench today at Accrington Stanley. “When we drop him down to the under-18s or the 23s he understands. Last week I wanted him to play in our FA Youth Cup tie at Goodison but because of George (Honeyman)’s injury I had to have him involved with the first team. It’s good for him to play with people his own age and it was a big game for them but I told him it wasn’t the worst thing because there was a good chance he’d be on the pitch for us at some point. It was only 15 minutes but he still got game-time at first-team level. (Mumba’s personality) just gives me confidence that he’ll go on and fulfil his potential. He’s got character and a personality, which you need to have, and he’s got belief, not arrogance. But he’s grounded enough to understand how far he’s got to go in the game. He’s got a really good mix of characteristics and I don’t see that changing. He’s a likeable young man and I don’t think his family would allow him to change in that respect – I don’t think he would anyway. From day one he was in with me because we had such low numbers. He’s trained every single day with me since the start of the season. You’ll be aware of a player’s reputation but I loved him. He’s my type of player. He’s got an unbelievably good feel for the game and he does things you can maybe teach but he’s not the sort of player who’s not always going to blow you away – he’s not going to go past five people and put it in the top corner – but he does the things you need to do in a game very well. He protects the ball very well, he puts the ball in positions where other people can’t get it, which sounds very simple but isn’t easy, and his understanding of the tactical side is very good. He’s got things that give him every chance of having a really good career, a good platform. He’s got to get better at other aspects of his game and he’ll do that over time but he’s got something that I just like watching him play. He’s just a good player – it’s a very simple description, but he is. He’s signed a three-year contract, it was good for us. It’s a reflection of the academy that produced him and it shows he wants to stay here and is happy and content. I think we’ve shown the pathway’s there with the experiences he’s had this season. If he moves on from here at some point you hope it’s for something that will blow his mind rather than just being something where you could argue he’s better off here. In an ideal world you would always have that comfort, and his contract means we can be fairly relaxed about his situation.”

In other news, Jack Ross would prefer to avoid Newcastle u23s in the next round of the Checkatrade Trophy. He explained: “It would be an unusual set of circumstances. I wouldn’t want to labour on it too much, but we’ve seen that with another derby in the week (Port Vale v Stoke City Under-21s). There’s a different dynamic when you have a derby match and it’s one first team and one under-21s. It’s not ideal, I think everyone would appreciate that at any derby throughout the country. But is it what it is. Whatever comes out of the draw for us, we’ll deal with that challenge. Taking completely out of it that it could be Newcastle in a derby, I don’t think any senior team enjoys playing an under-21 side, if I’m honest. I’ve had it in Scotland with colt teams, that are now allowed in the Challenge up, they’re no-win matches for the first team. Not just because of the derby, I would just prefer it to be against another senior team. I just found those games more enjoyable. Not just because our record is good but because of the number of games we’ve got and the logistics involved whenever we travel. It’s a difficult match if we get through but one that we would enjoy the challenge of. It’s an okay one for me and a manager, but we’ve got a difficult game to get through first. Again, in the Checkatrade (Football League Trophy) we would probably hope for a home draw. It may be regionalised for this round again, but that doesn’t always mean that much for us, as we’ve seen already.”

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