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PRESS CONFERENCE: Sunderland boss Jack Ross talks P’boro, injuries, in-form McLaughlin & more

Jack Ross met with the press ahead of Sunderland’s huge game with Peterborough United, discussing everything from injuries to key players, the task ahead against a promotion rival, his in-form goalkeeper and more.

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On the mood after Saturday...

Good. The mood has been fairly consistent all season. I think performances at times have differed, but in the main the results have been reasonably positive. Again, it depends how you want to spin them, for us to have lost only one league game in ten is a solid enough start.

The circumstances on Saturday when you go ahead and then your pegged back, sometimes it deflates you a little because you want to win every game. Equally, we played the last 20 minutes with more or less ten men because of Lynden’s injury. I think the players were pleased with the resilience they showed, and I think they also recognise that it’s another point earned in a league that’s incredible tough to earn points in. Particularly in games with almost a cup-tie feel about it.

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On the Peterborough game...

It’s still relatively early in the season, but as the season started to develop and this one was on the horizon, we understood that it would be a big game for both teams. Their form has been terrific, and they’ve stayed in those top two places by in large all season. But, it’s a game we’re looking forward to.

I think in some ways it might suit us better, when the game opens out we tend to be more effective and we’ve seen that as games have became more stretched as they’ve went on. So, I’d expect a Peterborough side that will come and be positive with how they approach the game and then it’s up to our players to deal with that, but then be as positive as we can going the other way.

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On Peterborough’s promotion push...

Well, their form to date and results to date would suggest that they would. Again, it’s difficult for me to say with certainty because I haven’t seen them in the flesh. I’ve watched a lot of them and then looked at the results and how effective they’ve been. Certainly, they have goals and a threat throughout their team and when you have that it gives you a great opportunity to stay there. There’s nothing to suggest that they won’t be up and around those positions as the season unfolds.

Blackburn Rovers v Peterborough United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

On coping with the demanding schedule...

It’s different, but it’s good as well. I think players always comment that they prefer matches than training, but as a coach or a manager you still enjoy the opportunity to work with them on the training pitch. It’s just that the timing is limited with the games coming around so quickly.

But, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the intensity around it and I’ve no other feelings other than excitement. It’s my first game, first proper game if you like, under the lights at the Stadium of Light and I look forward to that as well.

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On the fans at the club...

The numbers that they travelled in on Saturday for a game under those circumstances, with it being broadcast live, a lunch-time kick-off and the distance involved, it’s remarkable. It’s remarkable in any league, any country, it’s astounding, and you wouldn’t get that from many clubs.

Does it justify it? No, I think I knew it was a big club and the fans emphasise that every single day. But, you carry expectation because of that, not just me, but everyone who wears the badge carries that expectation of 5,000+ fans that travelled on Saturday.

I think as a starting point is that we’ve given them a team that reflects their passion from the stand on the pitch. We’ve got areas that we need to get better in, but at least they can see that and I think you’ve seen that with their response to games as well, by in large they were positive towards the players on Saturday.

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Will Peterborough be your biggest test yet?

Again, it’s difficult to say for certain, in terms of where they are in the league, yes. Simply because we haven’t played a team as high up as that, so on that side, yes. But, each and every game we’ve played this season has been remarkably difficult for very different reasons. Home or away, we’ve faced very different challenges, different opposition teams that have approached the game with that cup-tie feel around it.

We’ve faced that every single week, so league position it’s certainly the biggest test. But, in terms of the actual game, I can’t say for certain until we get into the match tomorrow night.

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On the gap developing at the top...

I’ve never really looked too much at what they’re doing. I think we’ve always had an understand of what track we need to be on to get promotion. If you average two points a game over a season, it puts you on 92 points, which is pretty close to achieving automation promotion. We’ve got 19 points from 10 games.

If you look too much at other teams, you can perhaps take your eye off the ball in terms of what you’re doing. But, I agree with you, you don’t want to be detached from the teams that are in the top two places. Tomorrow’s an opportunity for us to obviously close that gap.

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On Lee Cattermole...

His influence has been obvious in terms of his performance level. The goals have probably just attracted more attention around, that often happens with players. There’s a lot of players that can do their job well on a match day, but they don’t necessarily grab the headlines or the attention.

So, for effectiveness of performance, he’s been pretty consistent this season, his goals have just highlighted it. I’ve said it so many times, but he’s been great for me from day one in pre-season. I think he’s enjoying his football, he’s enjoying the environment. I’m loathed to say that we’ve given him a new lease of life, but I just think he’s got a freshness about him.

The one thing about him is that he definitely has a huge desire to take this club back up the levels again, that’s evident in his performances. We’ll miss him tomorrow, but it’s only game that he’s out for and he’ll be back available for Saturday. So, there’s enough within our squad that hopefully should get us something tomorrow night and when he’s back available for Saturday, it strengthens us again.

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On Jon McLaughlin’s performances...

Well, he was a player that was one of the first that I probably identified that I wanted to bring to the club, for reasons that you mentioned there in terms of the position and how important it was that we got it right.

Obviously, I’d watched him very closely last season and when you add that to his experience and being successful in this league, he just ticked so many boxes. He’s also at a stage of his life and career where he can handle the pressures of playing at this club. He’s pretty unflappable as a character and you can see that in his performance levels.

The one thing that’s been hard for him is that he’s not had that real tangible reward, in terms of clean sheets. We haven’t had enough of them and that’s frustrating for him, but his performance levels have been very good and he’s undoubtedly played a part in us having a decent start to the season as well. That’s not going to change, he’s going to produce that consistency over the course of the season.

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On Jack Baldwin...

Jack’s an interesting one, he’s still a fairly young man and he’s played a lot of games for a young man, which is always a good thing. But, he’ll get better and he knows that, he’s got a really good willingness to get better as well, both on the training pitch and the work we do within the building. I think he’s happy with his performance levels this season but wants to keep improving them. I think he’s someone that can grow with the club.

I’ve mentioned this before about trying to bring certain players to the club that we feel could not only help us go up the levels, but actually come with us on the journey. He certainly ticks that box when you look at the age he’s at, the experience and room he’s got to grow as well. I think he’s popular with the supporters because they’ve seen that performance level and in terms of his commitment as well.

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On Wyke & Watmore...

Charlie’s still only week two of probably a 12-week period, so a long way off. We’ve gave him a little bit of time off because psychologically to keep dragging him when he can’t do anything can be challenging.

Duncan trained with me again today, obviously he didn’t do a huge amount, but he was with the group the whole session. We’re just pushing him along now, he’s not set dates on it but every week and day that passes, he takes another step closer. This is the closest he’s been, and everything has gone really well so far. He’s pleased with where he’s at from an individual point of view and that will just continue to ramp up. Now he’s in with the group properly, that will continue, and the next stage is obviously game involvement. Initially with the Under 23’s and then involvement with us.

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On Maja’s contract talks...

Just ongoing. Its relatively straight forward for me in terms of my opinion to how much I want to keep a player or how much I would like us to extend the players contract. Once I’ve had the dialogue with the club, the next process is for that communication to continue between their representatives and the people at our club who look after that.

It becomes a bit easier for a manager sometimes. That dialogue started and from my point of view I hope that ends well. We’d like something to progress as quickly as it can, but that’s not always the case.

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On getting a point last Saturday...

I keep mentioning it about managing Sunderland and finding out about all the challenges of it. There is this expectancy that you win every single game and we’re not complaining about that, I think it’s a great thing to have. But, when you don’t win, you have to deal with the aftermath in the right way.

You take the positives as much as you can without being unrealistic, so we were disappointed not to win the game on Saturday for having been ahead in the game. But, I mentioned this before, if you win games at home and draw games away from home, you’re not going to be far away as well. I think the resilience levels of the players is increasing away from home because they’re facing big challenges. Home teams are galvanised, and home supporters are galvanised with the intensity of the match due to the supporters we’re bringing and everything that goes with it.

Overall, on Saturday I think there were a lot of positives to take from gaining that point.

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Will finishing above Peterborough earn promotion?

Well, at the moment it would be absolutely vital because of where they are in the league. As I mentioned, I think they’re there on merit to date and there’s nothing that I’ve watched of them that wouldn’t suggest that they’re going to continue to be around those higher positions through the course of the season.

They’ve a lot of threats in forward areas and for that, it’s important that we try and put down a marker tomorrow for where we want to be at. They recognise the challenge of the game, but I think we’ve got a lot of players in that squad that have dealt with big games in their careers. If anything, I think tomorrow is the type of game that they’ll thrive under. That challenge of playing a team that is towards the top of the table and the challenge of them probably coming and thinking they’ll win the game as well. I would expect those big games that we have to respond to that.

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Are you excited for tomorrow’s game?

Every single game, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season for very different reasons. There’s been different challenge in amongst them and as I mentioned, we’ve had a couple of midweek games at home, but cup games. To go and play under the lights in a league game and a league game that has a real significance around it, is another thing to look forward to.

I’m looking forward to seeing my players respond against a team that has had a great season so far. I think you learn about your players all the time and we’re not shying away from where we want to be this season. We understand that to be there we have to beat teams like Peterborough and that will be our aim tomorrow night.

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Has Cattermole performed better without the captaincy?

I think that because of how everything developed over the summer and where everything was in the early parts of pre-season, Lee and I had several conversations, private conversations about how things would progress. Not just for me as a manager and for the club, but for him as an individual person.

Lee looked at it the best way to try and deal with the situation as it stood and deal with it moving forward. Allowing him to concentrate completely on being the best he could possibly be as a player and adjusting to everything that was going on at the time was a good thing. It wasn’t me being a genius, it was through conversations that I had with him. I think he’s enjoyed that, he still behaves the same way. If you see how he behaves in and around the changing room, how he trains and the demands he makes of the other players, it makes no difference to him.

That’s a real positive for him, to behave in that manner. He just behaves in exactly the same way even if he had the responsibility, but deep down he can relax knowing that it’s not there and I think he’s thriving on it.

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