Ross: “NUFC = No Win”

Jack Ross reckons we are in a “no-win” situation regarding the Newcastle Checkatrade Trophy game on Tuesday. Ross explained: “Being drawn against an Under-21s side irrespective of Newcastle is not the ideal draw for anyone. I think everyone would agree with that. It is a no-win situation. Because it is Newcastle doesn’t make that any different, but it is easier if you are playing against another senior team. It makes it more normal if you like. For me it is about trying to progress in this tournament. I would never shy away from the fact my prime responsibility is to get us back in a position where we are playing derbies, playing against Newcastle in a derby league game, ideally in the Premier League. That’s a task I was given and I have set myself. I would love the opportunity to do that. No matter how anyone tries to dress this up, it’s not. That’s the reality and I’m not trying to dress it up. We have no fresh injuries, we were quite stretched squad wise Saturday at Charlton, we only had 15 fit outfield senior players. We have to consider the schedule, the importance of Saturday and this Saturday too, that will affect the team we select. Once you progress in the group stage of this competition, you start to understand you are only a handful of games away from Wembley. Naturally people would get excited because of the size of support we would take to a cup final. It is not our absolute priority but we want to go as far as we go in it. I suppose it is a very unusual set of circumstances we face, far from ideal because we are involved as a first team because of what happened in the last couple of years. One of the goals is to lead this club into a derby match at the top level. That’s not tomorrow night, it’s a Checkatrade Trophy match. That’s how we look at it. “This isn’t a derby that is seen as the one everybody would want. If anything it gives you extra motivation to get to that position where we get to play the derby on a league footing. We have not spoken a huge amount about the game. The actual occasion, not really, genuinely for me it is just another Checkatrade Trophy match. It falls between two important league games. The whole club is looking at it like that. We have not lost many matches this season, so we are just going out to view it as a match to go out and win, nothing else. We must produce the kind of performance to win.”

Ross has also been chatting about centre halves. One which is incoming later this week, but he also praised Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan: “Like anything, it’s not always straightforward, things can always change at the last minute which is why I’m always [cautious] until it is all signed. But I had a conversation about it this morning and everything I’ve been told is that it will still happen this week. Hopefully it will be over next couple of days. By and large I thought we did well against him [Lyle Taylor]. As a front two, Charlton’s are as good as anyone in the league. They’ve played a lot of games but also mentally it is a new challenge for them. Tactically it is a bit different as well and then there is the expectation we face. Charlton got a big reception leaving the pitch on Saturday and that shows how we’re viewed in this league. They’re young men and it’s a big ask for them mentally to keep churning out performances. Then there is the scrutiny, which is a word I’ve used a lot. When people in Scotland ask me [what’s different about this club] I say that. Every decision you make, there’s always that and it takes a bit of adjusting to. For me, I’m a lot older so it is much easier to cope with it with my life experience. A lot of these players are playing for a really big club for the first time and it is very different. So far they’ve coped very well with it.”

Ross also gave his daily update on the Josh Maja situation: “I don’t envisage anything happening. The communication I have had with Stewart Donald (owner) today is as you were. Josh will continue to be part of my squad as long as he keeps performing. There is a difference between asking to leave and not taking up a contract offer, it is the latter he has done that makes it easier for me. I do think we have been good for him, he is a talented footballer and how he approaches it is down to him. "Since coming here I believe we have been good for him. We gave him the pathway into senior football. This season has been a platform to show he can handle first team football. Those at Charlton will have seen a performance not affected by what went on. I didn’t have any reason to think he wouldn’t, but you don’t know for certain. I had a chat with him Friday evening, I had no concerns in that respect. He is very serious about his football. He is a situation that we find ourselves sin in modern football. However, it pans out the experience will benefit him for the rest of his career, I'm sure.”