Jack Ross arrives at Sunderland as the first manager in well over two decades where you can say safely that he’s not a ‘big name’ appointment - something which is completely unfamiliar to supporters of this football club as we head into the uncertainty of the third tier in English football.
So, as always, it’s important that we hear the views of people that know the man best in order to try and formulate our expectations, and to work out whether or not the person we are getting is the right fit not only for this football club but for the owners that have a vision for where they’d like to see Sunderland head in the coming years.
Aside from this piece we’ll be hearing from other St. Mirren supporters over the coming days, but to try and shine some light on the subject we bring to you the views of a man that has a keen interest in both football clubs - Sunderland season card holder and St. Mirren shareholder Iain Lockney.
Iain is by no means a huge St Mirren supporter, but bought shares in the club spontaneously years ago when they sold them - and has retained a keen interest in the Buddies ever since.
He’s a massive Lads fan, so the news that the former Hartlepool defender is set to take over the reins on Wearside went down a storm with him - particularly since he’s become familiar with Ross in recent years.
As Iain explains, the 41-year old took over the then Scottish Championship club at an incredibly low ebb and was able to turn them around, all whilst operating on a tight and difficult budget:
Ross took over with St. Mirren at the foot of the Scottish Championship, following Alex Rae’s rather calamitous reign in charge.
After a shaky start and a January transfer window that saw many players leave and come into the club St. Mirren had stayed up despite the odds and were Scottish Challenge Cup finalists.
The following season was also an odds defying feat as St. Mirren finished the season as champions, 12 points ahead of Livingston and losing just 8 times. They were top of the table in December and never looked back.
One of the many tasks that Ross faces is successfully incorporating Sunderland’s young players into his squad next season, and Lockney adds that his ability to do just that at St Mirren meant they experienced success not only on the pitch, but off it:
His work with the youth prospects at St. Mirren was key, the breakthrough of Kyle Magennis into the squad and getting him to sign a new contract was paramount to the club’s success.
He would often utilise his youth setup at the club bringing several young lads over the course of the season.
Stevie Mallan, Kyle McAllister and Lewis Morgan were two other younger players who performed well under Ross and they were snapped up by Barnsley, Derby and Celtic.
Supporters will be keen to see Sunderland - for the first time in years - play a brand of attacking and exciting football as we usher in a new era at the club, and Lockney promises that the Scot does indeed prefer his sides to take the game to their opponents:
Contrary to Rae’s tactics, Ross wanted his side to be the opposite; very easy on the eye and effective at playing the ball out from the back, and caring about the shirt.
He encourages players to keep it on the deck and liked playing attacking football - winning many games 3-0 or 3-1. If we’re 1-0 down, he’s not one of these managers who will sit back.
He’ll go for it, so sometimes St. Mirren did lose 3-0 or 4-0. He’ll chase a game.
And, above all else, Ross is a fine man-manager who more often than not has his players enjoying their football - both on a match day and on the training pitch:
All of his players speak very highly of him in terms of both playing under and training with - even just those that he got on loan.
Sunderland supporters will be hoping that Ross is not only able to impart his managerial nous on a football club far bigger than St Mirren, but that he’s also able to develop further and fulfill his potential whilst he’s the man tasked with restoring our club to its former greatness.
Nobody is expecting his task to be an easy one, but Ross comes very highly-tipped, ambitious and with a career that’s on a sharp upward trajectory - all things that should give hope to a fanbase waiting for their next messiah.