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Press Conference: Jack Ross on how a big, healthy squad will give Sunderland a promotion boost

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Jack Ross met the media today ahead of Sunderland’s trip to Oxford on Saturday, discussing everything from the quality of Will Grigg to how having a big squad is going to give us an edge in the promotion race.

Sunderland AFC

On signing Will Grigg...

I think there was a clear understanding in terms of us trying to find a replacement for Josh (Maja) or to try and strengthen our attacking options in Will Grigg was a player that we identified early and was for a long time our priority, our number one what we wanted to bring to the club.

The way the weeks unfolded, it looked like that would be unlikely to happen, so I suppose the best way to describe it is “alls well that ends well”, as a lot of things happened inbetween that maybe difficult and challenging.

But, the fact is that we managed to bring a player to the club tha tis very much proven in this league, and I’m sure will be an asset for us over these two or three months that are remaining in the season.

Sunderland AFC

On Grigg’s track record...

You look at goals to game ratio, the divisions that he’s done that in.

So first and foremost as I mentioned there, Will’s track record in this league is as good as anybodies. He’s obviously achieved success as well, not just individually but as part of a collective, in terms of achieving promotion from this division.

So, in that respect he ticks almost every box, he got an international pedigree as well, character-wise he fits very much in with the group at the moment, so just overall just a really good signing for us and one that I’m sure will help us over these remaining league fixtures and cup fixtures that we have.

Sunderland AFC

On Grigg’s injury issue...

Yeah he should be fine, he should be fine to travel.

He’s trained the majority of the session on Tuesday, he trained all of the session today, so unless there’s any adverse reaction...

Generally fitness-wise he’s fine, obviously he hadn’t missed a great deal, however you temper that with, like Grant and like Lewis, not played a huge amount this season.

Now there’s two sides to that - one, it’s trying to get the legs up to speed if you like, the challenges that you face in a game twice, three times weekly, but also there’s gunna be a freshness about them.

So, but in terms of the actual injury itself, he’s all good to go at the moment.

Sunderland AFC

On the size of the squad...

Just by coincidence I think that by bringing the players in, it’s also the healthiest we’ve been as a squad really, so that would have helped anyway because there’s not been that many occasions this season.

There’s probably one or two exceptions where we’ve had a full squad, we’ve always carried injuries, so there is the absolute competition for places at the moment, which is what you want and ideally you would have had that over recent months as well.

So, I think players understand that they have to be at it all the time and in training, and having performance levels in games that keeps them in the team.

What it’ll allow us to do is be a bit more flexible probably in our approach to games as well.

So, all in all, good place on paper but the next part of it is obviously putting that into practice on the pitch as well.

Sunderland AFC

On Oxford & their recent form...

If you look I think at a couple of their recent home games they’ve played against the likes of Portsmouth and Barnsley and they’ve produced good results as well, so that is another indicator of how good a team that they are, that they can be on their day.

So, the challenge for us is being consistently difficult each and every game.

The home games we spoke about provided a different challenge and, in each and every away game, I think a lot of he time has resulted in the opposing team’s biggest crowd of the season - I gather that will be the same on Saturday.

So, that all adds to the occasion if you like and the challenge that we face.

So, you’re right, it was a difficult match when we played them at home, obviously made even more difficult by the fact we were a man short for large parts of it, but we know that we have to play well to win the game on Saturday.

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On the tough task when playing away...

I think a lot of the away games this season have felt like cup ties is maybe the best way to describe it, so there’s always going to be a difference in tactical approach depending on the opposition, manager, etc, but I think it’s been more of every away game has had that feel around it that it’s felt like almost a one off cup tie.

We mentioned about the size of the crowds that are sometimes in the grounds, the travelling support that we always take with us, and then the game itself has been almost like that, it’s became played at that type of pace and tempo (in) a lot of them, and that’s why we’ve found a lot of away games a real challenge as well.

So, we’ve came through a lot of them well, but every single away game we play between now and the end of the season will be exactly the same.

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On having a busy period coming up...

Last week leading up to Wimbledon was good, this week has been good again for us because we’ve been able to train a lot more and at a higher intensity, and we also know that we’re gunna come to a period (where) that’s gonna dip a little bit again because we’re just not gonna be able to have the time on the training pitch.

But, to temper that, as I mentioned in terms of where the squad is at health wise and numbers wise, I would think we’re in the best possible place, but that can change very quickly, that’s just the unfortunate thing, but it would allow us to keep things fresh I think through these next forty-fifty days that we have ahead of us, so we’ve obviously got a large amount of fixtures.

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On having people at the club with promotion experience...

It’s certainly not a hindrance!

It’s not easy in any league, what ever level you are playing at, to win a league or to achieve promotion - they’re the hardest things to do because it’s a slog, it’s a grind to get through 46 games, to achieve that in these leagues is really tough.

So, the fact that we’ve got players that have an understanding of what that takes, right through the squad, is a benefit.

Then you temper that with carrying that expectation almost, it’s upon your shoulders to do that, I’ve spoken about it before as well, it certainly feels as though we’re well equipped and that there’s enough within the changing room that have been over the course, if you like, albeit sometimes with different clubs and different leagues, but have been over that course of achieving promotion.