Profile: Jack Ross is hands-on and will demand dynamism, intensity and full control at Sunderland

In the last couple of years, it could be argued that what Sunderland needed wasn't a manager but a corporate downsizer.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 24th May 2018, 9:57 am
Updated Thursday, 24th May 2018, 10:01 am

A person to ruthlessly clear the decks so the club could start afresh. Smooth out the foundations and allow someone to build the team up again, rather than the short-term fixes and risks on top the already unsteady foundations which have put the club in the current predicament.

Relegation from the Premier League was meant to be the start of something new. Instead, it will have to be in League One rather than the Championship. And it is looking likely it will be under the stewardship of Scottish manager Jack Ross.

Jack Ross has transformed St Mirren.

Fans may see this appointment as too much of a risK – someone coming down from Scotland, someone who hasn’t managed a top-flight club, someone who has only managed a full-time team since 2016.

And, with the exception of a trying spell with Hartlepool United as a player, someone who has no experience of English football.

Those are understandable concerns, but fans may be about to find out just how well-judged an appointment this would be.

Ross would find himself in a situation not too dissimilar to the one when he was appointed manager of St Mirren in October 2016. The Paisley club were languishing at the bottom of Scotland’s second tier, with no wins from eight league games.

Ross, who had impressed as a coach at Dumbarton and Hearts and as manager of Alloa Athletic, encountered a squad heading to the third tier, somewhere St Mirren have never been as a club.

And that’s where a disconsolate and disgruntled support saw their future.

The engaging and articulate 41-year-old was appointed, and the metamorphosis begun, even if it took time.

By the opening of the January transfer window, the Saints were still bottom, six points from safety.

Ross and assistant James Fowler did not have the squad to play the positive football they wanted, so 10 players were signed. The manager even went into the stand to discuss the situation with a particularly irate fan after a dispiriting loss.

St Mirren finally climbed from the bottom of the league with five fixtures remaining, playing positive rather than pragmatic football.

The team finished the season with the best record over the final 13 league games, scoring more goals than champions Hibernian.

Refining rather than a rebuild was required in the summer, the momentum from the previous season and foundations put in place gave the Buddies a launchpad for their Championship-winning season this term, which saw them in control from the turn of the year.

Taking over Sunderland at such an early stage allows Ross to put in place his ideas and team during pre-season, making the most of preparation time, rather than doing so midway through a campaign.

He will seek assurances from Stewart Donald that he will be in control of the footballing department. He has a good relationship with the St Mirren board and has the autonomy he requires.

Ross is very hands on across the club with a real attention to detail. He wants to know what is happening with anything which affects his team.

He has admitted that he perhaps needs to delegate more – he oversees a lot of the training and various aspects away from the field.

A huge say in the recruitment of players will be a must.

Those signed will have a particular skill set and athleticism.

Ross preaches dynamism and intensity in his teams and the individuals within the squad, both in training and on matchdays.

Many managers talk a good game with regards to the tempo, pressing, possession.

Ross is not overly fussed on the latter. He demands that his players are positive in the final third, giving them a freedom to lose the ball with no repercussion.

That was very much seen in his St Mirren side this season. Despite winning the league by 12 points, Saints were sixth for possession but they scored the most goals, had the most shots and most dribbles.

It is something which should excite the likes of Duncan Watmore, Joel Asoro and George Honeyman.

Ross is keen on working with younger players who give him legs and energy.

At St Mirren, he was quick to hand more responsibility to youngsters Lewis Morgan and Kyle Magennis, who became key individuals.

He was a surprise winner of the PFA Scotland manager of the year award, considering the competition he had from Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon, Steve Clarke and David Hopkin.

Yet it is hard to talk down his achievement with St Mirren and how he has done it.

In Ross, Sunderland would be getting one of the most talented coaches in Scottish football, someone fresh and exciting who will demand the very best from his players, coaching staff and those above him too.

He would create a new Sunderland AFC.