Sunderland have surrendered automatic promotion at the hands of Fleetwood Town and going into the Play Offs have only taken six points from their last six games. Here’s what Jack Ross had to say: “It’s a time to not sugar-coat anything,” said the Sunderland boss. “The players have to understand that we don’t want to spend another season in this league. That’s not being disrespectful to the league because we know how tough it’s been, and we can see that from where we’ll finish. But every single player who has come to Sunderland should have ambitions of playing in at least one higher league. I’m the same as a manager. The brutal reality is that they have to face up to the fact that they have to do certain things better, otherwise that won’t happen. I don’t want to have another season in League One, and they shouldn’t want to either. It’s a time for not shying away from that, and maybe now we’ll find out the ones that really want to stand up. It’s going to take big character now over these next three games after Saturday”

“I can’t keep telling the same story or being protective in the same way,” added Ross. “We can’t keep getting ahead in games and creating opportunities, but not be more ruthless and then capitulating in that manner. We should be good enough to win games from winning positions. I’m pretty angry in terms of how that comes about tonight because we did enough in parts of the game to win it, but we didn’t, and so we’ve ended up on the wrong end of a scoreline that also means we know where we’re going to be, missing out on the top two. I know people will say that had already been confirmed before tonight, but it hadn’t, we still had an opportunity. We started the game in a manner that showed a team who still thought they could do it, but ultimately we fell short because of the result. We haven’t kept enough clean sheets, and we haven’t won enough games from winning positions, and that’s why we’ve fallen just short,” admitted Ross. “We’ve still got a good points total, but we’ve fallen short for those reasons. If we had done those things better, we would probably have been there by now. Over the last three games, we’ve collectively missed a lot of opportunities. If we had taken them, the scoreline in all three games would have been different, but we didn’t. When you don’t, you then have to keep a clean sheet, and we’ve not done that either. So it’s not a good recipe. The truth, and we can’t shy away from it, is that our results over the last five or six games have not been good enough for us to get in that top two. Ultimately, that’s what’s cost us.”