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PRESS CONFERENCE: Sunderland boss Jack Ross answers questions on futures of Oviedo, Ndong & Papy

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Jack Ross met with the press again this afternoon ahead of Sunderland’s trip to Gillingham, and not only talked about the game but also gave an injury update on Charlie Wyke and the futures of several players - here’s the conversation transcribed in full.

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On the start of the season...

Yeah, I think naturally you always seek perfection and, in that case, if we had won all three games it would have been a perfect start. But, I think given the turn around in players and the number of injuries we’ve had in that period, it’s a start we can be satisfied with.

Every game we’ve played we’ve shown signs of progress in each game and yesterday was probably the best one to date. It was another step forward in terms of making our home stadium a difficult place for opposition teams to come.

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On making The Stadium of Light a fortress...

Yeah, for many different reasons I think its important that we win games there on a regular basis. Most importantly to get to where we want to try and get to this season. That will be the foundation behind it, it will very much be home form. So, that’s the initial aim and then beyond that, to encourage people to keep coming back.

The numbers that have came out in the opening home games has been incredible, it’s been well documented. But, I don’t think it should ever be taken for granted because fantastic support that has turned out in these opening games. Thankfully, we’ve provided them with wins and enjoyable games as well. But, the responsibility falls upon me and the squad of players to keep doing that and keep enticing these people back and hopefully more as the season goes on as well.

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On Josh Maja’s performances...

Well, I think strikers are naturally always judged on goals and so to have scored three in three consecutive league games is terrific for him. I tried to find out as much as I could about all of the players before I came, but you don’t really get a feel for them properly until you work with them day in and day out.

Josh has got a lot of really good attributes that we just need to encourage him to use and then add the bits of his game that are missing at the moment. But, what he’s done so far and the responsibility he’s had to take on in that period because of injuries we’ve had and limited options we’ve had in attacking areas has been big. He’s handled that which has been really encouraging for me.

Sometimes as young players, opportunities open up when you don’t expect them. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have had those opportunities, but circumstances have meant that he’s been very much thrown into the spotlight in that sense and he’s responded fantastically well. I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue over the course of the season because he’s not all of a sudden going to become a lesser player than he is at the moment. In fact, I would say the opposite, I think he’ll get better as the season goes on.

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On Charlie Wyke...

He is getting every closer. We are hopeful that he’ll stay, obviously we will travel tomorrow and will be based in the London area for the remainder of the week with the fixtures we have. Charlie will stay behind with the other guys like Tom Flanagan, Duncan and Aidan.

I’m hoping that by early next week they’ll be able to join in with the rest of the group ahead of schedule, which is a bonus for us. It might be that the Oxford game might come too quickly, but there is an outside possibility of been involved around that time.

What we’ve done is we’ve managed to knock off these fixtures and gain positive results without his presence. Hopefully we can continue to do that over the course of this week and by the time we get to the Oxford game, possibly have him available.

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On the importance of the next two games...

Yeah, well I think at this stage the opening games don’t always determine your season, but they can put markers down for it. That was something that was stressed with the home games and yesterday was an opportunity for us to do that. Thus far, we’ve only had one away game, but a tough one at that and we came through that relatively well. As I mentioned earlier, I’d have liked to have won that game, but we still produced an ok performance and we had to be resilient given the atmosphere and environment we went into.

Each and every away game is going to provide us with different challenges and that is part of the problem solving for me as a manager. To try and find the best solutions to that and how we setup and how we combat the difficulties we’ll face and then how we keep strengthening what we’re good at.

So, it’s going to be another good marker in terms of where we’re at within this league and where we can hopefully get ourselves too. A challenging week, but I think it’s one that the players will be going into with the best possible frame of mind, which is obviously good for me as a manager.

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On the positivity surrounding the club...

I’ve mentioned the synergy between jobs when I’ve taken jobs on. I’ve never taken a management job on when the club has been in a good position. Each and every one of them have been in difficult circumstances, on paper. So, I’m used to that, but equally I probably worked a plan that will hopefully try and change that environment and that culture. I know they are buzz words nowadays in football, but they’re very true. In every sporting environment you’ll get that now from head coaches and managers that will talk about the importance of it.

The thing is, I’ve been used to it over the past 18 months of been in and around players that were used to winning games. Once you start to do that, that momentum can build very quickly as well. The great thing I’ve got here is that I’ve got good players, I’ve got good players and I’m part of a fantastic club. So, that in itself gives me an advantage to begin with and it’s then just bringing all of the little bits together. Then trying to get that in the first instance, which I think we’ve done at the moment and then continuing to grow it.

We’ve got a lot of good things around this club that it can become really powerful. Certainly, for everybody, when you’re coming into an environment whereby you’ve won on a match day, naturally makes everyone feel better and gives them a taste for wanting more of it.

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On Gillingham’s threats...

The interesting thing for me is obviously learning about new teams. In Scotland, I was used to facing a lot of the same teams and the same players, so my knowledge of them was obviously greater. But, they play in a system probably similar to Luton and we’ve had to deal with that this season, so that helps us in some degree.

But, they’re a team that have started the season in a relatively positive manner taking Saturday aside. So, we’re aware of the challenges of that and like every away game this season, there’s an added edge to it simply because of the status of this club and the fans we will take to each and every away game. That in itself lends itself to an increased atmosphere and intensity about the match, so we’re going to have to deal with that each and every occasion we go away from home and it will be no different again on Wednesday evening.

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On keeping Bryan Oviedo...

Well, from a management perspective it would be nice to. It’s difficult to say with any certainty because there’s always been this awareness that we had players who we’re on contracts that were Premiership and Championship and we are now in League One. That is the reality of it, so it’s always a question that’s best answered by the people that own the club and run the club.

I’ve always taken the view that I’ll just deal with whatever I’ve got on the playing side. So, Bryan has been a part of that since his return from the World Cup and it’s been really positive for us and I think he’s enjoying himself. I think if you speak to him individually and his performance levels have reflected that as well.

From when I came in to today, right until this point there’s been nothing different in that sense. But, we’ve still got 10 days left before the end of the international window and the loan window, so things can change in that period and if they do, I’ve got to adapt to that. But, certainly at the moment, he remains part of my squad.

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On N’Dong and Djilobodji...

Just as it was before, not here. But, obviously they remain as players at the club and for very obvious reasons we’d all like a solution to that by the end of the month, one that would be beneficial to us and to them. But, I’m not really bothered about them to be honest because they’ve not been here, and I’ve never had to deal with them.

But, I just think for the club it would be nice to put an end to that as well and I know there are people at the club who have worked incredibly hard to find solutions to that and it’s not always been easy for them. But, I still would believe that we’ll have a solution to those two by the end of the month.

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On AFC Wimbledon...

I think naturally from my point of view, although I’ve started to look at that game, the Gillingham game is the one of upmost importance in terms of our preparation and our analysis. So, that won’t really begin until Wednesday evening is out of the way and that’s part of the challenge of this week.

But, what I do know is that the environment we’re going into is very different to the one that we obviously played in on Sunday. In terms of the side of the ground and size of the crowd, all though I do believe that it’s a sell-out. Similar to Luton to a degree, all be it Luton have a much bigger stadium again, but that intensity around the game. Obviously, as I mentioned with Gillingham, a team that started the season in a relatively positive manner. So, I think every single away game is going to be like that for us this season, it’s going to be a difficult and a challenge. But, the players responded really well to the atmosphere and intensity at Luton and I’ll imagine they’ll do the same on Saturday again.

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On changes you’ve made here since joining...

It’s a good question because the previous jobs I’ve went into were in difficult circumstances and I think that those ones initially we’re material changes that I thought I could implement into the environment. Whereas, coming in here, materially there isn’t really a lot you can do because it’s so good. But, there was probably changes on the human side that we could affect, in terms of how we communicate and interact with people around the club, that’s throughout the whole club. Primarily up here for me because that’s where I spend most of my time, but that’s something that we worked hard at it.

Then obviously, naturally from the playing side how we try and get across our ideas or how we work in a relatively short period of time. Two aspects of that, on the playing side, how quickly the players have responded, how much they’ve understood the information and how willing they’ve been to take that onto the pitch. Then the level of support I’ve had from people all around the club has been outstanding. People who genuinely want this club to do well and who’ve responded very well to how my staff and I go about our work. I had a brief meeting with the staff before the Charlton game and that included all of the staff that work up here, from cleaning staff to ground staff to kitchen staff and so on.

Just to really thank them for that level of support and that’s something that has been hugely encouraging for me. It’s really important to recognise that as well because if we are to be successful this season then they will play as an important part as anybody on my side or on the playing side.

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On the positive working environment...

It’s human nature. Football has got its own unique aspects to it, of course it has. But, I think we get caught up in it sometimes and believing that it’s so different to every other walk of life. I don’t think it is, I think it’s the same. I think it’s managing people and trying to get the best out of people and the environment you can create with that and how you bring everybody together is how you make any business or organisation successful.

So, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and realise that football is just the same. That’s how I’ve intended to approach it and maybe the fact that I’ve had a little bit more of a rounded career background has helped me in that respect. But, I’ve always taken that approach to it and I think if you see the enjoyment that everybody associated with the club gets from days like this encourages you and makes you want to provide more of that.

I get satisfaction from seeing how much that means to other people, I don’t really look at it from my own point of view, it’s my job to do it. But, certainly seeing the enjoyment that people got from yesterday and days like that makes you want to do it on a fortnightly basis or whenever we’re at home.

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