Sunderland press conference: Jack Ross reveals positive contract talks, transfer plans and previews Walsall

Jack Ross faced the press this afternoon as Sunderland prepare to travel to Walsall - and he had plenty to say.

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 1:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 1:50 pm
Jack Ross faced the press ahead of Sunderland's trip to Walsall

Ross addressed issues such as Josh Maja's contract, the latest injury news and being handed the favourties tag every week.

Here's what the Sunderland boss had to say:

Jack Ross faced the press ahead of Sunderland's trip to Walsall

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Jack Ross on Josh Maja speculation...

I think part of it is what happens in modern football when players do well. Naturally they become subject to speculation and as always there's probably parts of that speculation that are accurate and large parts of it that are inaccurate. It just goes with the territory. I think I said post-match on Saturday that I still believe he'll remain at the club past his current contract. There will certainly be elements of that out of my control, if there was an offer that came that the club felt they couldn't turn down then that's very different.

But I think, at the moment, the conversations I've had with Josh is that I know he's happy, he's enjoying and I think this is an environment he's improving under. I would still be confident that he will remain at the club, but there's always factors to consider and things that I can't control. We're very much working on controlling the controllables and what will be will be.

On a timescale for Maja's decision...

Ross provided an update on Josh Maja's contract

From my perspective, the relationship I try and build with players, I always try and be fairly balanced in that view that I just don't become blinkered from my position as manager of the club. I've got to take things from the player's perspective and there's a balance to be had.

At the moment, I'm fairly patient with it because I don't think it's affecting his performance level in any way. However, I think Josh is aware as well that the sooner these situations are resolved one way or another, it's helpful. We're still in November and we still have time in our favour before we, or any of the other parties involved, need to make any snap decisions.

On contract talks with other first team players...

Again, from my point of view, I'm probably unaware sometimes of how time marches on because my weeks pass by so quickly with the number of games and preparation for them.

Lee Cattermole remains out through injury

I can sometimes forget that it's a month since we first discussed this, or longer than that, so I can understand why people may think that things have dragged on. I don't feel they have, and even from the player's perspective, they're probably the same because they're so busy with games.

There's been positive dialogue with all those players and there's nothing I've had from any of them in the individual conversations that I have that would worry me in any sense. So I still remain confident that they want to remain part of what they're doing here.

Naturally, as we want to grow as a club and progress up the leagues, the individual players have those ambitions as well and it's important they marry together.

On January transfer window plans...

What we try and do is have a fairly robust plan in place. The work that goes on between one window closing and the other opening has to be consistent. I don't think you can just ramp up that work because you might lose players.

You have to always have an awareness of what might be available, what might fit with what you need and what fits with the budget available. The good thing is that we've managed to put a team together to do that.

Losing any players would obviously change how quickly we would need new players in in a certain position, but it doesn't really impact upon too much the planning side of things.

On being in the top two...

I think it's been a good reward for what the players have put into the season to date. As time marches on, it's so short-term football and you forget where you were six months ago and how much we've had to progress in that short space of time. I think we are further ahead than maybe people envisaged we would be.

It's a fitting reward for what the players have put in during that period. Naturally the incentive for them was to go top and that would have been a greater reward for them if you like, but I think to be where we are at this stage of the season is helpful for me as a manager and has helped to grow that confidence and belief. It's also helped grow a hunger for this season because they're in and around those places. There's potentially something tangible for them be it in the shape of winning a title or promotion.

On being favourites every week...

I think this league in particular, and the Championship is similar, has an air of unpredictability around it. I think teams adjust the way they play on a weekly basis dependent upon venue or opponent. We've had teams come to the Stadium of Light this season and play on the front foot because they look at it as a free hit, almost.

Saturday, Wycombe came and were tremendously well-organised, allowed us possession and made it difficult for us to break them down. It's one of the first teams that really did that at home against us. As much as we had prepared for that to a degree, there were aspects of the game that we didn't do as well as we had planned to do. That can happen through a little bit of frustration and impatience.

The good thing is, I think you learn from every match and we tend to work that way. I think the things we didn't do well on Saturday will stand us in good stead for when a similar game happens at the stadium, because undoubtedly we'll have games like that again between now and the end of the season.

I think it's something they've grown into this season. As much as we have players who have played at the very top level and players who are used to dealing with being the favourites in games, I think to face it every single week has been new for everybody. Every time we go home or away we're perceived as favourites, rightly or wrongly. There was an adjustment period at the beginning, but I do believe that the group of players have got used to that and the challenges that come with that. It's something that I think they actually enjoy, I enjoy it and I think the players enjoy it now.

It is draining, because they know they've got to be at it every single week which means, if we do go on and achieve success, I think they'll believe they've earned.

On the latest injury news...

We still have some longer-term ones, Charlie Wyke and Ethan Robson, and Duncan Watmore will play for the under-23s next week which is a big step for him. Lee remains out and will the earliest he will come back in post-Walsall in the FA Cup, probably the beginning of that week."

We've had some little niggles this week - Dylan McGeouch, Chris Maguire, Jerome Sinclair. So we'll see how they are today and into tomorrow. So we're okay, but we're carrying the usual two or three that most clubs in the country will carry through the demands of this league."