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Press Conference: Sunderland gaffer Jack Ross on Josh Maja contract latest, new signings & Luton

Sunderland manager Jack Ross met the press today and discussed Josh Maja’s contract, new signings coming in, players going out, the huge game with Luton and more. Here’s the full transcript...

Jack Ross met the media today
Sunderland AFC

On how Jimmy Dunne is settling in...

I was fairly consistent in saying that we were looking to try and strengthen our defensive options. January is not an easy window, for any manager.

You have more limited options of what you can bring to your club and I’ve always worked on the basis of trying to come out of the window stronger.

The addition of Jimmy will help us in that.

Although he’s a young player, he’s enjoyed success loan spells to date and each of those loan spells will have prepared him well for the challenge that we’ll have in the remainder of the season.

Hearts v St Johnstone - Ladbrokes Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

On Boxing Day’s attendance attracting new players...

It’s a good point and it’s something that I became more aware of.

Not just the very obvious one in terms of the numbers that have came to support the club, but I think the general feeling around the club has changed from the summer.

I think that there may have been players who would have been concerned as to what had happened to the club in recent seasons.

How the change in ownership was going to affect the club and what lay ahead.

Whereas now, I think players are now recognising that this is a fabulous opportunity and a great club to come to.

So that, to a degree, makes my job a little bit easier.

It’s just then identifying the right players, but certainly in terms of the persuasion of them to come to the club.

I think that lessens when we’ve done what we’ve done in the last six months.

Sunderland AFC

On a striker joining the club...

Again, probably in terms of the identification of areas of the park that we need to strengthen in.

So, defensively was one and then in an attacking area was in another.

The reality is, this season, we’ve played in the main without an out and out striker.

Charlie’s return has helped us, but even now, you could only really make an argument for Charlie and Josh being recognised strikers.

The other ones are forward going players who are equally as comfortable in a wide area or in behind the striker.

So, I do feel that for the remainder of the season we need another option in that area of the pitch.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I won’t comment on any particular player, but the identification of players has happened long before now.

It’s just how that unfolds, not just over the next couple of days, but the remainder of the month.

Doncaster Rovers v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Will Grigg incoming?
Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Is there an update on Josh Maja’s contract situation?

For me, I say it all the time, but I take less notice of it because I’ve got so much going on.

But I understand why it’s attracted attention because of his goal scoring record this season and maybe the manner in everything that unfolded last week as well.

So, the only thing that’s good is his attitude and performance in training have remained the same.

His performance levels in games have remained the same, our communication has been consistent and that’s all we can do until the situation changes.

Either for the better for us in terms of committing to a contract or if we lost him.

Again, it would be remiss of me to deny the possibility of any scenario because you just don’t know what might unfold over the next few weeks.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

How have you managed the Maja situation?

I suppose there are a couple of elements to it.

I think the consistency of the messages I give to Josh privately and the consistency of the messages I give publicly are important.

I think if you tell the truth, generally, it usually pans out OK.

I’ve always been transparent of where we’re at with Josh and I’ve been truthful in terms of how I treat him.

I’ve always remained quite stoic in saying that I never take it personally.

Josh and I have a really good relationship, but equally, a good element of that is a professional relationship between manager and player.

So, whatever decision he chooses to make regarding his future, I don’t take it as a personal front to me in any way.

I think that helps you be clear headed about it and I would like to think that as a coach or a manager and being a little bit more senior in terms of years of experience, your reaction can then influence the attitude and reaction of a young player in that sense.

Hopefully that’s maybe helped Josh be fairly, maybe relaxed is the wrong word, but keeping a fairly level head through the whole process as well.

Gillingham v Sunderland Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Are you expecting any outgoings in January?

No, none imminent. I’m not in any rush to trim my squad.

We feel as if we’re OK, we’ve performed OK over the first half of the season.

If anything, it’s just finding one of those two players that we’ve mentioned to strengthen it.

However, like anything, once you pad out your squad and increase your numbers in certain positions then naturally, players may feel as if they’re further down the pecking order and that may change their opinion of being at the club.

That’s something you have to deal with as the month unfolds.

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On Luton’s managerial situation...

Nathan leaving doesn’t change a huge amount.

I would say it changes far less than if he was leaving having not been successful because the reality is, Luton have had a style of play, not just this season, but for the previous season of his, that has brought them success.

I don’t envisage any changes to that.

So, for our preparations, it’s been relatively straight forward in having that belief that they’ll play in a similar way.

I think if it was a new manager coming in on the back of a disappointing period, you’d maybe expect changes.

Also, as much as I’m sure Nathan has been a huge influence on that, I’d imagine there’s a group of players that will believe that they’re the ones who produce performances week in week out.

So, they’ll come expecting to perform in the positive manner that they have done this year.

But we understand the importance of the game and the significance of it and we’ve been, by in large, good in our own stadium this season.

So, it’s another exciting game for us as a club to look forward to and probably a reminder of enjoying these positive times that we’re having at the moment.

Doncaster Rovers v Luton Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

On struggling to kill games off...

Nowadays, there’s so much information available so statistically you can examine a lot of different aspects of the game.

It depends on how in-depth you want to go with them, some are appropriate to where you are and sometimes not always.

From losing positions this season, we have an unbelievably good record and from winning positions we haven’t lost this season in the league, but I think we’ve drawn four of those games when we’ve taken the lead.

So, it’s a fair point to make and because of what we have as a squad and where we want to be, you want to make sure that when you get into a winning position, you stay in that position.

Although we haven’t lost from that position, we’ve dropped points.

So, it’s like everything, there’s always little fine margins that you can improve upon and that’s one that we’re aware of.

The players are aware of it and it’s something that hopefully we can put right in the remainder of the season.

Sunderland AFC

On the mental state of Luton’s players...

That’s something that’s very difficult to predict.

As you mentioned there, from the football perspective I don’t envisage that there’ll be much change because they have a very settled system and by in large, personnel.

As you mentioned, their squad has been together for quite a while.

How much influence Nathan had on the group pre-match, half-time, post-match, it’s impossible for me to say.

I don’t think Saturday will be the acid test of that, obviously the remainder of the season will be the acid test of that.

Undoubtedly, he was a hugely successful manager for them and one that they will miss as a club.

But football is that type of industry where it rolls on and somebody else will come into that position and kick them on again.

Naturally, all we can really influence is how we approach the game, both mentally and then from a tactical point of view as well.

Doncaster Rovers v Luton Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

On Saturday being a proper occasion...

I’m glad that the game is out of the way now, from midweek.

The Checkatrade Trophy in itself, depending on when the fixtures fall, regardless of the opposition and the little bit of hysteria created around that fixture in particular, can sometimes be challenging just when it falls within league matches in a busy schedule.

So, pleased it’s out of the way and it’s allowed us to concentrate on this game this weekend knowing that we’ve also got a full week ahead of us next week.

Which we haven’t had, I can’t remember the last time we had it.

So, I think the players go into that with a little bit of freshness at the weekend, knowing that they have a full week post it as well.

As you mentioned, it’s a game that is the reason why you try and have a good platform to build on because you know you’re going into the second half of the season with games like Saturday that should grab the imagination and be one that people get excited about.

Sunderland AFC

Is the feeling different heading into Saturday’s game?

A lot of people in football would say, I mean I talk about it a lot, but the consistency in our approach and consistency in our behaviour, and that is there.

But the uncontrollable element of that is emotion and I’ve always been someone that has that feel for football matches.

Sometimes you have that as a fan, even as a neutral fan, you go to grounds and you can almost feel something different in the air.

I think if you have these types of fixtures, if you were at Fratton Park pre-Christmas it probably had that feel about it.

Even last weekend, within the stadium there was a little edge to the atmosphere that I think is one that players pick up on and look forward to.

Usually, if you’ve got good players, it helps raise their performance level as well.

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