With all the madness of the transfer window, you may have forgotten that there’s a football match to be played this weekend. “Every game for us has been a big game this season. It has felt that way as well, there’s never a game that’s felt any less intense than the one previous or the one that lies ahead. Wimbledon will be the same again for us. For me, it’s certainly been very much about still trying to concentrate on what the biggest part of my job is and preparing teams properly in among everything else that’s been going on. It’s nice to get to the 1st of February and look forward to the game. Also, we now have a clear understanding of the next run we have ahead of us, the number of games we’ve got and where it takes us if we produce positive results within them. That sometimes is a good thing, there’s that clear reward for us going and winning games. I’ve spoken often enough about how tough this league is and there’s a number of cup games this season, I know they’re one off games, but there’s been a number of cup results this season, not just Wimbledon’s against West Ham, that have shown the strength of this league that we currently find ourselves trying to compete to get out of. That was just another example of it. I’m sure they’ll come in probably as good a frame of mind as they’ve been for a few weeks, not just winning the game, but the manor of the victory as well. Every game we’ve had at the Stadium of Light this season, there’s been no easy games for us, and I don’t expect it to be any different.”
The gaffer spoke about our new acquisitions, starting with Will Grigg: "When you lose your top scorer so late in the window - and you don't necessarily know you're going to lose him - you are playing catch-up. I work quite logically, looking at certain criteria, and go through that process. When you look at which player has had the greatest goals-per-games ratio in this league in recent seasons, it makes it pretty obvious to identify your target. Then you have to weigh up whether he is available, and he was. So that's why he was clearly our main target - he ticked every box in that sense. Thankfully, we have managed to get him. It's very hard to be dismissive of what Josh has given us this season because of the goals he got. It's like Doncaster losing John Marquis, or Barnsley losing Kieffer Moore, or Charlton Lyle Taylor. You can't just say 'that's OK, we'll replace him dead easy'. But we have got the player in who, on paper, has given us the best chance of replicating that over the second half of the season. He's obviously missed the last couple of weeks [of training] but as far as we are aware he was scheduled to return to training today. It's unlikely he will train with us today, and he is unlikely to be involved tomorrow because of that, but aside from that I would expect him to be available."
However, it looks like the other new signings could all feature: “Lewis and Grant will certainly be in the squad. Kazaiah only travelled up late last night, so we’ll see how he is this morning. With Grant Leadbitter, we have got a number of options in that area of the pitch, but I’ve also said that we need to bring a greater control to games at times, particularly when we go ahead as we have done a lot recently. Grant is highly proven at a level that we’re currently not operating in and that was shown by the other offers he had or other opportunities he could have had to stay in the Championship. Then you add to that what we’re trying to create within the club. Not just the squad we’ve put together, but how we want to be moving forward. For me, if my time here was to end tomorrow or in five years, I should leave behind a squad that is a Sunderland squad. I’ve learnt that from seven months in the job and Grant very much fits that profile. From speaking to him, the desire he’s got to take this club back up the leagues, even in the short period he’s been in this week, it’s very evident that that determination is there. So, I think it’s a really good signing for us.”
Ross also commented on our overall business in the transfer window: “I know the window has this excitement created around it to make good television or whatever it might be, but from a professional point of view, you would prefer it to have not been as dramatic as it was late last night. I think I said previously that you try and come out of a window in a stronger position than when you went into it, or at least not weakening in any way and I think we’ve managed to do that. Kazaiah Sterling is on loan until the end of the season, which I’m pleased about. He’s a young player who has a huge amount of potential and he gives us a dynamic option in a forward area. We’d already recruited Grant Leadbitter and Lewis Morgan previous to that. I think we also have to point out that the squad has had a good season to date. It almost became this rush to sign players, but that squad has done well this season. We’re not top of the league, but we’re in a good position, we’re in a semi-final and we’ve only lost two league games. So, if we brought ones in, I felt as if we needed to add value. I do believe that Jimmy Dunne was a position we needed. Grant is a really good player and is absolutely determined to bring success to this club. Lewis is somebody I know really well and then the very obvious one was a striker because we lost Jerome Sinclair in the window and Josh compounded that. I feel as if we’ve left ourselves in a position now as we go into the remaining 19 league games and the cup semi-final, hopefully a final, in a good position.”
He also seems pretty pleased about working with Lewis Morgan again: “Firstly, when you get the opportunity to work with a player that you trust and know well, like I have with Lewis, it’s a plus. Also, as a young man, as a character and his attitude towards the game, he very much fits in with what we’re trying to do. Also, we’ve only really had Lynden and Aiden for majority of the season that give us natural options in wide areas. I know Duncan, but I still very much view him as anything we get from him is a bonus. So, to have another option in wide areas is a plus for us. Lewis is so two-footed that he can play from either side as well. It gives me another option, but it also strengthens that competition for places, I think that’s important at this time of the year as well.”
Ross also discussed Maja’s departure? “What I feel personally is irrelevant because I’m here to manage a football club. It’s not about whether I feel happy, sad, disappointed or whatever it might be. I spoke to Josh during the week and I’m not going to say anything other than the relationship I had with him was very good. I think there was some life-learning experiences for Josh through that month that we had that will stand him in good stead as a person, never mind as a footballer. We all have that at different stages in our life. The contribution he made to our season to date was fantastic. I’m disappointed I don’t have him because I enjoyed working with him and I think he’s a talented player. I wish him every success in his move and he’s somebody that I think will remain in contact with me because I think he did value the help we gave him over the last seven months as well.”