Sunderland AFC v Portsmouth: Jack Ross on the Black Cats fanbase and his message to the players

Sunderland AFC manager Jack Ross.
Sunderland AFC manager Jack Ross.

Jack Ross says he never takes for granted the support of the Sunderland faithful and he has praised the fanbase for the impact they can have.

Sunderland, who have averaged over 30,000 for League One games this season, host Portsmouth at the Stadium of Light on Saturday evening (KO 7.30pm) in the first leg of the play-off semi-final.

So far, around 23,000 tickets have been sold for the game not including the 2,000 Portsmouth fans or the hospitality packages.

Ross is fully aware of the positive impact a vibrant and bouncing Stadium of Light can have on the players but adds that ultimately it is down to the players to perform regardless of the size of the crowd, with the Black Cats facing Pompey over a two-legged semi-final.

Ross said: “I think we’ve seen first-hand the significance of support within the stadium and the good thing is they (Sunderland’s players) have responded to the bigger crowds.

“Some of the games at home – Charlton the first game of the season, off the top of my head, the recent match against Doncaster, and even the recent match against Portsmouth - the atmosphere has been terrific and the players and opposition have commented on it after the game.

“It’s absolutely terrific when it’s like that, but you can’t take that for granted and expect that to be the case.

“It’s not just people associated with Sunderland, but opposition players and coaches comment on the noise that can be created within our stadium.

“Ideally you would like as many of our fans to turn out as possible, but the team have got a duty for the ones that turn out to make sure they perform the way they have done for large parts of the season and give them a victory.

“The numbers that turn up in the stadium shouldn’t determine how well we play.

“It can always be a benefit, but there’s a duty on us to go out and perform regardless.”