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Press Conference: Jack Ross reveals details of Craig Samson move from St Mirren to Sunderland

Sunderland gaffer Jack Ross took part in a lengthy press conference today at the Academy of Light, talking Wycombe, Josh Maja’s finishing ability, the details behind Craig Samson’s move from St Mirren, Charlie Wyke’s fitness and more.

Sunderland AFC

On team news heading into the Wycombe game...

Relatively healthy.

We obviously have a couple of long-term injuries in Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore, who are still working back towards full fitness.

Other than that, much as we were last weekend.

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On the game going ahead this weekend...

Well, I think we had one earlier in the season that we obviously chose to postpone because we had the option to do so because of the international call-ups we had.

I think we would have been right on the cusp of meeting the criteria, but even prior to that, we had a conversation and discussion and we felt it was better for us to try and play this fixture.

Simply because we’ve already got some difficulty in trying to shoehorn the Blackpool fixture in somewhere and obviously, the more of those that build up.

We’ve progressed in both cups, well two out of three cups that we’ve been in to date as well, so I’m pleased that the game goes ahead.

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On our current run of form...

Our form over the course of the whole season has been relatively good.

To only have suffered one defeat in the league up until this point is satisfactory and has given us a good platform for the remainder of the season.

I wouldn’t say surprised, I’ve always had faith in my squad and trust in it, but I think when you go a certain number of consecutive victories, it’s always a significant achievement at any level of the game.

Although they’ve been spread across three competitions, I think to have eight consecutive wins is testament to how the players feel about themselves and as a squad at the moment and naturally, you want to try and continue that for as long as you can.

Sunderland AFC

On potentially going top with a win...

Well, I think it’s where we want to be.

I’ve never shied away from that from day one of taking the job and it’s not by any means saying that we have a divine right to be there because we’ve already seen in all of our league games to date that they’ve all been incredibly difficult.

But it would be another step forward for us to get there. We haven’t been there to date this season, it’s where we want to try and get to and remain there.

Psychologically, I think it would be another good reward for the players if they could get to that position.

Ultimately, I know it’s very cliched, but the only time it really matters is after the last game of the season.

Certainly, getting to the automatic positions like we have done in recent weeks has been a nice boost for us and if we can go that extra place and lead from the front, I’d be happy with that as well.

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On what being top could mean for our January business...

We had a huge period of work in the summer, it was a really big transitional period for the club in so many different ways, so there was a big turnover of players in that period.

I don’t envisage there being anywhere near that turnover, but even then, us not needing to do a huge amount. Not just because the season has went well, I do think that I’m blessed with a reasonably balance squad, the numbers are ok, they fit with probably how I work.

There is a reasonable balance positionally, there’s maybe one or two areas we would look at. But again, we’re still six weeks away from it, you can never predict what might happen between now and the beginning of January in terms of the health of your squad.

A load of planning processes are underway, there’s no anxiety about that period coming around because I’m satisfied and more than pleased with what the squad has given me to date.

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On the superb support the team gets...

It’s been remarkable all season, it’s never stopped amazing me, and I’ve never became blasé about it. What it does is that it always emphasises acutely to us the responsibility that we have upon our shoulders.

Not just me as a manager, but all the staff and players to represent those supporters, but also try to reward them on a weekly basis as well.

The credit they deserve is huge, for their loyalty, for the efforts they make and the expense they make in following the club.

The great thing for me to date is that at least we have rewarded them, they’ve had a lot of good days at home and away so far and we want to continue to do that.

I know that if we continue to do that, the numbers will continue away from home and I would imagine the numbers then at home will start to increase again.

I’ve been hugely grateful to what they’ve given us so far.

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On what he makes of Wycombe and Gareth Ainsworth...

Like every game this season, I really look forward to them because for me they’ve all been new teams, new managers and coaches that most of the time I haven’t come up against before.

I spoke briefly with Gareth on Sunday because he was covering our game for television and I’ve also coached a couple of players who have worked under Gareth, so I’m acutely aware of his success and how well he’s done with Wycombe.

To have them promoted to League One and then to stabilise them there - I know the strengths they have as a team in terms of I think it was very evident is the energy they play with and we know, like every game, that we have to play well to win it.

Every game has been ridiculously difficult for us this season, home and away. Every team that has come to the Stadium of Light has responded to the environment and I would expect Wycombe to do the same on Saturday.

Every manager in this league and across the country has different challenges for a variety of reasons. Even in my own relatively short managerial career, I’ve had a variance of them.

So, any manager that works within those circumstances and achieves success deserves credit. It’s not an easy job, regardless of how big or small your budget is because there are all different challenges that lie in-between that.

So, the fact that he’s achieved success with that team and the fact that they still continue to still progress is credit to his ability as a manager.

Charlton Athletic v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images

On our players attracting interest from elsewhere...

There’s a reality to that, it’s not something that I worry about simply because I’ve had it before in jobs.

I had it with a young player; Lewis Morgan. He went to Celtic, although we managed to keep him for a season. I’ve also had players previous to that, that naturally if you’re doing well, your best players or your players that have potential will attract attention.

I don’t want to make it sound like I deal with any issue that I have as a manager easily, but I never really worried about the problem, it’s more about fixing the problem.

So, if I get to January and I lost my three-star players for financial reasons, then I’d just have to find a way of replacing them.

So, I don’t lose sleep over that, it’s more just about continuing to get the best from them and if that is the knock-on effect of that, I’ll accept that and take it all day long.

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On players wanting to stay and achieve promotion...

It’s a good point because in football, you don’t get that many opportunities to achieve promotions, win titles or win trophies.

It’s very different to what people would imagine, so when those opportunities potentially present themselves and it is only potentially because we’ve got a lot of work to do, then it’s something that you maybe want to achieve and look back on in the future.

Young players can potentially be in a rush at times, there’s a patience that can be involved in it at times.

Not only the fact that we’re in a position that we might be able to challenge for success this season, but it’s very obvious, as I’ve mentioned already, about the size of the support we have and the size of the club.

There are a lot of plus points about being at this club that would make people not be in a rush to leave it.

Sunderland AFC

Will reaching the top of league bring extra pressure?

I think ordinarily, I would say yes.

But I do think that we’ve had that every game this season because of the circumstances of the club dropping from the Premiership to League One in two consecutive years, the fan base we carry, the perception of us as a club and a lot of that perception is right because we are a big club.

It’s meant that every game we’ve faced that type of pressure, so I don’t think that it would change that much, it’s just been there all season.

So, in some ways that’s good because if we do get there, it doesn’t change an awful lot.

We’ll be used to dealing with that type of, I wouldn’t say pressure, but how the opposition have viewed our games.

Sunderland AFC

On Charlie Wyke...

He’s been back on the pitch doing some work with the physios, but we still anticipate that he’ll be three or four weeks away from being fully fit, which is slightly ahead of schedule because originally, we thought about Christmas time.

It’s just positive the fact that you forget how quickly time marches on, he’s been out a significant period already, about eight weeks, but we’ve managed to just churn out results in that period.

Which has meant that when you’re losing good players, you can probably worry less about the recovery period, if that makes sense.

There has been no real rush for me to get him back because we have been managing to do ok. But on the flip side of that, when he does come back fit and healthy, it’s a help to me as well.

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On Josh Maja’s learning curve...

I’ve said it often enough about areas of his game that he can still improve upon and he can still strengthen, but I’ve also said how he is as an individual and a character, he totally understands that and he’s willing to do it.

The bit of his game that I can’t take credit for is his finishing.

Day in day out, I see it. I remark about it all of the time that he’s as good as I’ve seen, and he showed that again during the week.

It’s not a bad attribute to have in your favour, if you can have a quiet game and you can still have one clear opportunity in the game. I’m sure that most people who are associated with Sunderland at the game believed that if it fell to him, he would score.

It’s a great attribute to have and what he’s done to get to these goal scoring numbers already at this stage of the season, if he replicates that over the course of the season, he’s going to have a season that young player or experienced, is a really positive one for a striker.

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On the importance of having momentum...

It matters a lot. I know people speak about it and it can be thrown about as a sound byte at times, but in reality, it’s true, it can help or hinder. So, when you go the other way, as we’ve maybe seen here, it’s very difficult to get out of. Equally, when you’re in that roll of winning matches and I’ve had good experiences of that as a manager, you just keep knocking them out.

What it does is that the players start to develop the mentality that they won’t get beat. It’s not arrogance, just they believe that they’ll win games. I think it’s just a key thing is making them acutely aware of why they’re winning games, so reminding them of what they’re doing to win games. Every single player at the moment wants to keep playing because they want to keep that run going.

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The importance of bringing in Craig Samson...

I’m delighted simply because he’s someone that I know and that I trust. I have a good understanding of his personality and character, his age, ambition and where he’s at in his coaching career. He’s a very good fit with the rest of the staff I have, so I’m looking forward to him starting work with us and I’m sure he’ll be an asset to us as a club moving forward.

Kilmarnock v St Mirren - Betfred Scottish League Cup Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

How grateful are you to St Mirren for letting him go?

It’s an interesting question because the circumstances around it are very different because in effect, Craig is choosing another profession. Just because it’s football, that sometimes gets forgotten about. It’s much more about him because he’s making a big choice in his life to stop playing to move into another field of work.

So, I’m pleased that he’s been brave enough to take that decision. What I would say, is I’ll give enormous credit to Oran Kearney, the St Mirren manager because the conversations I had with him he was very reasonable and pragmatic about it. I think he took a very balanced view, not for me because there was no duress from me upon Craig as to when he began this role. But I think he understood acutely, Craig’s position in this potential opportunity for him.

St Mirren v Celtic - Scottish Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

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