Following a defeat and a draw against north-east neighbours Darlington and Hartlepool, Sunderland broke their pre-season duck with victory on Tuesday evening at Grimsby Town.
A young backline that consisted of academy stars Max Stryjek, Denver Hume and Brandon Taylor alongside Donald Love and new signing Tom Flanagan provided a solid base for the side to play on the front foot. None of the youngsters did their cause any harm with their displays and clearly have given Jack Ross food for thought.
Ahead of them, the formation has started to highlight how Ross may have us set up this season. McGeough operated as a deep-lying creative midfielder alongside a physical presence in Ethan Robson. George Honeyman operated in a box-to-box role, bringing further creativity to the side, whilst Lynden Gooch provided attacking intent in support of forward Chris Maguire.
Transfer rumours continue to rumble, and whilst personnel may change this could be the make-up of Sunderland for 2018-19 - a side that looks to create and plays attacking football whilst looking to remain solid at the back; a team where players know their roles and operate within the freedom that provides.
Ross now takes his new side to play his former. This will show the Sunderland fans and perhaps players just how his team plays, and the image that Ross has in mind for Sunderland.
Today’s St Mirren side won’t be unfamiliar to Jack Ross or his back-room staff - though you couldn’t say the same for Sunderland’s travelling supporters.
Captain Stephen McGinn was loosely linked to follow Ross to Wearside, but nothing really came of the rumour. McGinn was the leader and backbone of Ross’ team last season and will be pulling the strings for the home side today.
Replacing Jack Ross in the dugout is former Sunderland centre-half, Alan Stubbs.
Sunderland fans will have mixed memories of the former Everton hero, known best perhaps after he famously celebrated a late Tim Cahill goal at the Stadium of Light whilst on our books. Stubbs rejoined the Goodison side less than three weeks later.
The Gaffer Says...
We need to develop a winning mentality and get used to winning games, as well as enjoying them, so I’m pleased they got that reward [at Grimsby].
What they’ve given me in training has been terrific, as has their response to what we’ve asked them to do. In each game we’ve played we’ve got better, but I keep saying it, there’s still loads of things we need to get better at.
The players will also get a greater understanding of how I want them to play.
If we can keep improving our performance levels in these games, then it’s probably been perfect in terms of what you want from pre-season.
The Treatment Table...
Reece James has been ruled out of action for ‘a couple of weeks’ due the reoccurrence of a groin injury, whilst Aiden McGeady remains some weeks away from competitive action.
Jon McLaughlin, Alim Ozturk and Lee Cattermole all missed the trip to Blundell Park, but Ross expects the trio to be available for today’s game at the Simple Digital Arena.
There are likely to be one or two other players rested and, as Stewart Donald revealed earlier this week in the Roker Report Podcast, we are likely to see a few trialists included in the Sunderland side.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Tickets are available on the day of the game, from the window at the away end of the ground (North Stand) from 1:30pm to kick-off time (3:00pm). Tickets are priced at £12 for adults and £6 for concessions.
If you are travelling to Scotland, our hosts have a handy guide here.
Alternatively, there will be FREE live audio provided on the club website by Nick Barnes, and you can tune in from around 3pm on SAFC.com.