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PRESS CONFERENCE: Sunderland gaffer gives encouraging updates on injured strikers Wyke & Watmore

Sunderland manager Jack Ross met with the press this afternoon ahead of the game on Saturday with Plymouth Argyle - and delivered some pleasing updates on the improving fitness of Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore.

Sunderland AFC

How close are the team to reaching top form?

It’s an interesting opinion and I’ve heard it often. It’s one that you could probably argue for and against. You may argue for it because we haven’t went and absolutely battered a team this season, but maybe that’s in alignment sometimes with the expectations that when we came into this division it would be quite straight forward.

I think a lot of people have grown to understand that it’s a tough league and it’s not easy to win games in it. So, I would agree to an extent in terms of have we put it all together for a 90-minute period? Probably not. But, there’s been enough good performances either partly within games or still good performances over the course of a game, to be happy with.

I think we’ve shown already that we’ll continue to get good results, but if there is an improvement to come within the squad and I think there is a little bit, then that should stand us in good stead as well.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

On Plymouth Argyle...

This league is quite intriguing in that respect because the teams that you’ve either faced to date or you come against, their form or position can change dramatically as well.

So, if you take maybe six weeks ago, people would have pointed to us maybe not have playing teams in top half. If you look now, we’ve probably played a lot of them because some of those teams like Coventry, who were obviously bottom half and have been on an outstanding run that takes them top half and people look at them in a different way.

Similar to Plymouth who obviously have endured a difficult season but results recently have been good and positive.

Everything I’ve seen of them, the manner in which they were playing when they weren’t getting results was fairly open and expansive and I’ve always felt like those types of opposition have suited us better this season.

Previews ahead of Plymouth Argyle v Liverpool - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

On current injuries...

Glenn [Loovens] will come back into the squad for travelling.

He’s went through a couple of weeks of full training now, ideally, we’d have liked him to get some game time but it’s not always possible. So, he’s had a couple of weeks of good training, he’s trained fine, no reaction and he’s back into the squad.

All the other kind of longer terms, if you like, are still unavailable. But, hopefully as every week that passes, each and every one of them gets closer to coming back.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

On Wyke and Watmore...

Charlie is where we expected him to be. The time-frame, in fact he’s probably slightly ahead of it, the time-frame was always around Christmas time for his return.

I think he feels as if he might be a little bit earlier than that. He obviously had a similar type of injury at the beginning of the season, but I think he feels better this time than he did that time.

Also, we probably aren’t rushing him and putting less pressure on him this time. There was a real urgency to try and get him back available because we had limited options in forward areas. But, we have a little bit more depth, not a huge amount, so we’re prepared to be a little bit more patient with him.

Duncan has now completed three weeks of full training, with the full squad each and every day, which is a brilliant step forward for him. As we leaked into November, I think that’s around about the 11-month scale rehabilitation period. I think second time round from that injury is a good benchmark to get to.

I think we can now start to keep getting him closer to getting some game time, whether that involves closed door games or Under 23 games and if he does that, then that takes him close again.

I would expect before the end of the year that we’ll have Duncan back available.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

On paying respect to the tragic accident at Leicester...

I think it’s unforeseen in tragic circumstances and I think like everything, when there’s ever any tragic accidents like that, it brings a real sense of perspective to the game.

A game that’s full of emotion and opinion at times, that opinion and emotion can sometimes overstep the mark, so at times like that it’s a readjustment to how people see the game and certainly, I think if we’re able to pay our respects in the current manner, it’s important.

Mourners Pay Tribute After Leicester City Helicopter Crash Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Do you and the squad have to guard against complacency?

From my side, no. Simply because, I know I’ve been quite boring in my answer, but consistent in the answer ironically enough, that there’s a consistency in our approach.

So, in my approach, even in my previous job when I won the league last year, I still did things in the same manner even though we’d won the league. It’s been the same here, whether we’ve played poorly or well, drawn, won or lost, there’s been the same consistency in our approach.

I’ve obviously adapted it to approach different challenges.

Conversely for the players, rather than there being any complacency, I think they’re absolutely loving playing football at the moment and they’re desperate to get back on the pitch and play and continue to bang out positive results.

So, I don’t sense it in any way. The players trained brilliantly this morning and it was one of those sessions as a manager when you think; “I’ve got a right good squad here”. They were just really at it and I think that’s just reflected from how they feel at the moment.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

On doing well despite suspensions and injuries...

It’s very easy a manager to assume all credit for everything when it goes well, but I think it’s important to remember that there’s an element of fortune involved in football management, of course there is.

There’s what you believe and what you do and how you to try to create an environment within your club. But, I think what’s happened this season because of those circumstances you mentioned, we’ve had to rely upon the squad and I’ve been fortunate that every one of them that when given the opportunity, I think they’ve taken it.

What it’s helped to do is force a unity within them very quickly and also understand that they need to be at their best to stay in the team. So, there’s been circumstances that on the face of it look more challenging because you have to deal with all these absentees.

But, by getting it right in terms of results and performances, it lends itself to a more positive environment moving forward and I think that’s where we’re at, at the moment.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

On Plymouth’s results...

Sometimes it’s a snapshot of this league at times.

I think I’ve commented previously on the unpredictability of line-ups and systems and what teams will do. The only thing that helps a little bit is that they’ve won the last two games and have played the same team in the same way in those two games, so for my sake in terms of preparation, I hope they do the same.

Again, it highlights the difficulty of not just winning this league, but also putting a run of results together in it because of the challenges you face week in week out and how they differ.

So, Saturday will be the same and every away game I’ve mentioned before has been challenging and this one obviously becomes even more challenging because of the logistics involved in travelling.

Plymouth Argyle v Northampton Town - npower League 2 Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

On Derek Adams...

Yes, I know Derek from his playing days and also from his management days in Scotland. More so as someone who works in the same industry than somebody that I’m close to.

But, I think he’s done exceptionally well since he came from Scottish football to Plymouth and I know it’s been publicized in terms of some of the criticism he’s received in recent times, but how positive an impact he’s had upon the club can be overlooked given the nature of the game.

He’s maybe one of those that has went slightly under the radar in Scotland as well because he’s came down and done a terrific job over a consistent period of time, So, it will be nice to come up against him on Saturday and see him again.

Northampton Town v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

On Saturday’s long journey...

It will be nice to do it on the back of another positive win.

It’s a long way home and they’re always easier these journeys with a win and fortunately for us, the long journeys this season in the main have been enjoyable on the way home and that will certainly be the aim for us again this Saturday.

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