John 'Jack' Ross has been confirmed as the new manager of Sunderland AFC, signing a two year contract with an option of a further year in order to become the first big appointment of the Stewart Donald era.
He arrives after saving St. Mirren from certain relegation from the Scottish Championship two years ago before achieving promotion to the SPL last season, winning SFA Manager of the Year ahead of treble-winning Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in the process.
Sunderland Chairman Stewart Donald said on SAFC.com:
We are absolutely delighted to have secured Jack as our new manager. Jack is excited to be a part of the future we are building here, and the fact he turned down lucrative offers from elsewhere, including clubs currently in a higher division than ourselves, is testament to his commitment and desire to succeed at this club and his belief in our vision for the future.
He joins us following an excellent start to his managerial career, including a memorable 2017-18 campaign with St Mirren, and was deeply impressive throughout the recruitment process. We have acted swiftly and the hard work now continues in earnest as we look towards the ultimate goal of getting Sunderland AFC back to where it should be.
Speaking about his appointment, Jack Ross said:
This is a fantastic opportunity to take charge of an incredible football club. If you look the history, the facilities and most important of all, the fanbase, you can see what this club can be. To be part of the team to help realise that potential is something that fills me with excitement.
From the moment I spoke to Stewart and Charlie, their energy and enthusiasm was evident and I share in that. There’s a lot of work to be done in re-shaping the squad to ensure that we hit the ground running in League One, and I can’t wait to get started.
Before his stint at St. Mirren, Ross managed part-time side Alloa Athletic. Although he was unable to stop them being relegated into League One in 2016, Ross was given a new contract and generally received praise for nearly avoiding relegation. The following season, he led Alloa to a 10-game winning streak and held a star-studded Celtic side to 0-0 for 83 minutes in the Scottish League Cup before eventually losing. He left the club second in the league before signing for St. Mirren.
At the Buddies, Ross saved them from certain relegation in his first season. They were bottom for 27 consecutive weeks until in March, when he led them to safety by virtue of a squad rebuild in January, signing ten players and letting just as many leave.
The season later, St. Mirren romped to the Championship title, finishing ahead of second placed Livingston, winning 23 games and scoring 63 goals in the process.
Verdict - An Auspicious Appointment!
Ross clearly had a huge impact upon his playing squad at St Mirren, and has experience of taking in players dogged by relegation before quickly transforming them into title challengers and winners. He’s lead a squad rebuild at both Alloa and St. Mirren and has been able to effectively utilise each respective club’s academies and limited budgets in the transfer window.
I’ve watched a bit of Ross’ St Mirren side in recent years myself, and there’s one moment that really stands out in my own mind. After a devastating 3-0 home defeat to Queen of the South in late January 2017, even the most ardent of home fans consigned their side to relegation - seven points adrift at the very bottom of the division.
However, instead of slouch off angrily and downtrodden, Ross approached fans in the stand for both a debate on the game and an apology. From there, he led them to a Scottish Cup Final and incredibly unlikely safety, before achieving promotion at a canter last season.
So whilst I can’t profess to be an expert on the ins and outs of his managerial ability, I do take the opinions of St Mirren supporters on board - Ross sounds like a perfect fit, in theory, for Sunderland and has even reportedly turned down Championship interest from Ipswich Town in order to join us here on Wearside.
With the new ownership and manager now in place we can finally look on with hope and optimism for the first time in over five years - and possibly even a decade. The rebuild starts now.