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PRESS CONFERENCE: Full transcript as Sunderland boss Jack Ross sidesteps Ndong & Papy questions

Sunderland manager Jack Ross met the press today ahead of Saturday’s game with Burton - and he, quite rightly, would not be drawn into giving an opinion on the farcical situations with troublesome duo Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong.

Sunderland AFC

On current injuries...

We’ve had a couple of minor issues this week with Denver and Jack Baldwin, who both trained today. A slight concern over Dylan, but apart from that, just Duncan in terms of the longer-term ones. He’s making good progress.

Aiden has joined in training this week, he’s been out for the best of four months, quite a while. We feel as if probably him joining in accelerates his progress quicker than if he was just doing work on his own. So, he’s trained with us this week, it’s been quite tough, but he’s had no setbacks from that. So, were very much getting there in terms of having everyone available.

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On options for selection...

I think that we always knew that getting through the opening part of the season, with not only the turnover of players but we the fact that we had quite a number of injuries through that period, if we could get through that period relatively then we believed that we would get better and stronger as the season went on.

I do believe now that the squad we’re starting to have gives us more options. I know it sounds very easy to say but it does create healthy competition, you always need that within your group. I think players now in every position know that they need to keep performing at their best to make sure they stay in the team. Every manager wants to have that and I think at long last, we’re getting to that stage.

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On the statement regarding Djilobodji...

It hasn’t really affected me in any way because his absence has meant that I’ve never really had to contend with any issues from it.

With how things have progressed since then and where the current situation is, means that it never really impacts upon me.

There’s an awful lot of other people at the club that have invested a huge amount of time and effort to try and find a solution and I’m sure that will continue to be the case. So, from my perspective, it’s been relatively straight forward and I’m grateful to the other people at the club that have to deal with that because they’ve very much taken it away from me.

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On the club standing strong...

I don’t want to comment on it too specifically because I don’t want to prejudice anything moving forward in any way. But, again, it’s just reflective in the change in every aspect of the club and how we would like to conduct ourselves moving forward in all aspects of the club.

There are so many different facets to a football club and from my area, that probably extends out towards how we recruit, why we recruit and what those players will do for us in the future.

So, that is something that for the new ownership and new structure is probably a good learning experience in that sense. To make sure that we don’t find ourselves in these types of situations again in the future. You can never say never, but you obviously want to cut down the possibilities of having a similar scenario again.

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On the Didier Ndong situation...

No idea. It’s nothing that has really been an issue for me because he’s never been here since I took the job and that’s remained the case.

Again, I have no idea. I’m not avoiding the question, but my focus is always on getting the best out of the playing squad that I have available and he’s a player that has never been part of that squad. Until I’m told that he’s part of that squad, I don’t really think about him. I’ll leave that to the people at the club to deal with.

I speak to Stewart regularly and I know they have their particular view point on that and I’m sure that will come forward over the coming period.

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On the frustration of constantly conceding first...

I wouldn’t say frustrated, it’s football. It’s not an easy profession, there’s never any ways to guarantee certain things happening in a game. But, we are acutely aware that if we started games better through the course of the season, we would be in an even better position than we’re in.

We’re in a good position, it’s a good solid platform to build on. But, it’s something that you don’t shy away from. It’s a good group of players and they understand that with the conversations we have and the meetings we have and how we highlight areas that we can get better at and then how we do it. You keep trying to work at it, there are never any guarantees, but what you’re doing is cutting down the possibilities of something like that happening.

So, I’m not frustrated. Overall, I’ve been satisfied and also pleased that I know we can get better. It would be different if that was happening and I didn’t think we could address it and rectify it. But, we have enough in our squad to put that right.

It sounds very simple, but then you have another problem that comes along. The reality of it is that if you take out the first 15 minutes or if you break the game down into 15-minute periods. If the season had been played through minutes 15 to 90, we’d have only conceded one goal this season and we’d have scored 13, I think. We’ve only scored one in that opening period and we’ve conceded 5.

It’s a really clear way of highlighting the fact that we need to improve upon the earlier period of the game, for a variety of reasons. We need to deal with the challenges we face in that opening period and we’ve seen that already. We don’t shy away from it. It’s great because the players can see that if they improve on that where it takes them. Minutes 15 to 90, that record speaks for itself, it’s been very very good. The early part of the game we need to get better at and as I mentioned earlier, I believe we will.

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On Burton Albion...

I think with every team that’s relegated, it’s always a new challenge being in a different league again. Burton, Barnsley and ourselves are obviously in that and there’s never any guarantees how you’ll start that season.

They’ve probably had a very high turnover of players again as well, for a variety of reasons. I think they’ve had to contend with a number of injuries, probably a bit like ourselves. Although, we’re coming through that and I believe Burton are probably in the midst of that a little bit. I know they suffered another one through their goalkeeper last week. So, that has made the start a lot more challenging for Nigel. But, it’s probably an opposition that the players are familiar with because they still have some personnel that played in the Championship last year and because of that they’ll obviously be difficult opponents for us.

We expect the same as we have done in every game, home or away this season. A team that is desperate to try and beat us, we’ve seen that in every match we’ve played so far, and I imagine Saturday will be the same.

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On wanting revenge on Burton for last season...

That might come into it for them.

For me, obviously I’ve not been here at that time, so that doesn’t really come into my thoughts. I think anybody that was at the club last year would admit that it wasn’t the reason why the club were relegated. It just so happened that Burton were the team that made it official.

I just think it’s a game that will be indicative of where we are at in the season and our ambitions of where we want to get to. If we want to continue in the position we’re in and improve upon that, we need to go and win these games.

I keep saying it, as a club we should have the ambition to win every single game. It might not happen but that’s certainly what we set out to do and Saturday will be no different, even though it’s away from home.

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