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Fan Letters: “Will the real Jack Ross please stand up” - Sunderland fans debate manager’s future

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“Will the real Jack Ross please stand up, and be bold and unleash the talent at his disposal?” asks RR reader Ian Kinniburgh, who wants to see Sunderland’s players express themselves. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk!

Danny Roberts

Dear Roker Report,

I am an enthusiastic supporter of Jack Ross, believing him to be modern and progressive in his ways.... am I wrong?

It seems at the moment that he sets up the team to play to a system and will fit people into it. Really successful managers seem to bring out the best of the talent they have available to them and flex the system to maximise the players strengths.

We have players with skills, speed, ability, many who have had tremendous success playing elsewhere... but too often they seem to be restricting their contribution because of the way they are asked to play.

Will the real Jack Ross please stand up, and be bold and unleash the talent at his disposal?

Ian Kinniburgh

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I share your frustrations, Ian. What annoys me most is that when Jack first arrived his team played exactly in the manner we hoped it would - on the front foot, pressing high and causing devastation when we went forward, with a striker leading the line who was skillful and clinical. As more players returned from injury and January rolled around, Jack got too comfortable with a bigger squad and reverted further and further back into his shell. Now, his teams play defensively and without expression - eventually something has to give, because playing in that manner just isn’t sustainable.

Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Re last Saturday’s 2019-20 opener v Oxford - in one respect it was more or less a “carbon copy” of last season’s corresponding meeting, i.e. Oxford more or less dominated throughout, took a deserved first-half lead, before an improved showing on our part rescued us a point.

Then again, to view the game from another perspective, it was in effect “the same old, same old”. For I felt that we were lucky to get even a point, not just because Oxford had a second goal somewhat contentiously disallowed, but the fact that our penalty for the equalizer was, in all truth, our only real genuine attempt on goal in the whole game. Which tends to tell it’s own story, that is in addition to sloppy defensive play, and our and passing/crossing, which was at times quite atrocious. In a nutshell then, a rather lack-lustre display, and versus one of the so-called “lesser lights” (no disrespect intended of course to Oxford) of League 1, something which hardly bodes well for the campaign ahead.

Therefore perhaps not too surprisingly, Jack Ross has come under fire, again not just re the performance/result v Oxford, but also his tactics, team selection etc., which did, in all fairness, give rise to one or two questions about whether or not our current gaffer is up to the job of trying to lead us to promotion this season.

OK, one could argue that it was the first game of the season, and in view of the fact that our side included one or two newcomers, maybe it was to be expected that our performance could be compared to that of a bunch of strangers, who’d assembled for a Sunday morning kickabout in a local park. Or could it?

For on the evidence of Saturday’s performance, one still has to maybe ask one or two fundamental questions, namely, have we REALLY progressed since the end of last season, has the manager REALLY learned from his mistakes, and are we REALLY going to challenge for/actually ACHIEVE promotion this season?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no wish to see Jack Ross receive his P45, for he comes across a well-meaning, genuine sort of guy, and I feel that calls for his departure, at least at this stage of proceedings, are maybe a little premature (and maybe a shade silly at the same time). But having said that, in the harsh world of professional football, certainly as far as management is concerned, theres precious little room for sentiment etc., for football is primarily about results on the pitch, to be more precise winning results. And we all know too well, having had more than our fair share of “hotseat” incumbents at Sunderland, that if a manager fails to bring about consistent winning results/lack of success, then he invariably ends up being shown the exit door.

I don’t know, our squad possibly needs a bit more time to gel, and as such, maybe we need to play patience for a while longer, then again, time can often be a manager’s worst enemy. The rest of August promises to be a tricky month, particularly with back-to-back games to come v Ipswich and Portsmouth, two clubs like ourselves fancied to do well this season. So while its still early days, it goes without saying that we need to start seeing some signs of improvement/some cohesiveness in the first-team sometime soon, for its my guess that come the end of this month, we’ll have a better idea of how season 2019-20 will shape up, for the team, manager and fans alike. For one thing is fairly certain, we can’t really afford to hanging around in League 1 for too long, for the longer our stay in the third tier is, then surely the harder it will become to escape. Heres then hoping that from here onwards, the only way is up, for all our sakes.

Andrew Cockburn

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’m sure one thing all Sunderland fans can agree on unanimously is that we want to see Jack Ross be successful here - if he’s doing well, we’re doing well. Ultimately results will decide our fate and his fate. If Jack’s team are not picking up results at the rate of which is expected of a team gunning for promotion, he’ll be lucky to last four or five games into the season. Winning on Saturday - particularly in a convincing manner - will release some of the pressure going into the much harder game against Pompey at the SOL.

If I had to put money on it I’d say that I don’t think Jack will last very long, but ultimately I hope I’m wrong as his success is our success, and that’s all we want - to see the team play in a manner that excites us, picking up good results along the way.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I first attended Roker Park as a 10 year old lad in the 1975 season with my old man. In the intervening 45 years since I’ve witnessed a few incredible highs, some mundane dross and too many massive lows to mention.

I’ve seen some fantastic players, far too many average nobodies and a plethora of utter dross. I’ve seen us move to a state of the art new stadium and the gradual development of a magnificent infrastructure at the club in recent years. I’ve witnessed more relegations than I care to discuss but also seen 10 years in the top flight which is the longest run there since our first relegation from English footballs top flight in 1958. I’ve seen managers come and go and I’ve seen too many false dawns to fill anyone’s memories.

I’ve seen us on the cusp of great things only to squander that greatness with a lack of investment and lack of care and good judgement and in recent years I’ve seen us change managers like we were going for some world record.

I guess what I’m saying is I’ve got some history here like many 1000’s of fellow fans to make a judgement on our current situation.

I desperately crave the same stability many others do and in Jack Ross last season hoped that gamble might just work. Here was a decent bloke, great personality (even with that dour demeanour) and a good genuine solid and grounded individual who came at a perilous time and quickly set about his task.

Our squad last season had all the bad apples his many predecessors bemoaned removed for him and some new players brought that were fit for the league we now found ourselves in.

There were still some good Premier League players there though and some hungry new ones and hopes were high a return to the championship was on the horizon. However, alarm bells were ringing long before the final abysmal finish and those final 2 pitiful surrenders against Southend and Fleetwood came about for me.

2 Wembley finals merely masked the concern somewhat (albeit they were 2 totally blown games in their own right) but the general feeling was of a missed opportunity to go up and too many draws mainly due to a lack of direction, ambition from the manager and his team. I concur with that. Ross simply failed miserably to get the best out of our squad last season and failed in his 1 task of getting us up.

“Give him time” and “We need stability” I heard all through the summer as we rebuilt again following our offloading of our expensive top flight players. I lost faith in Ross way before the end of last season but the decision was made to keep him by Donald and so we go to pre-season with a new squad.

After 5 games (2 against non league opposition which hardly seemed competitive enough) and mainly indifferent results where we struggled for goals from open play against any of the professional ones, we started the new season against a very, very average Oxford Utd at home.

Things, I was told over and over again, would be different. They sadly were not.

Another repetitive turgid display from a team that had more formations than an 19th century battlefield all summer was again chopped and changed throughout 90 drab minutes with the inevitable scraped home draw celebrated with mute applause. Again bizarre team selections (O’Nien a regular all through the pre-season not even getting 1 minute on the pitch in particular) confused and bewildered the team and fans.

No plan, no direction and no hope.

I’m all for a stable management structure but that stability has to be with the right man and for me Ross’s time here is done. He has no plan, no ambition and no tactics of how to get us promoted at all. He’s out if his depth here and delaying the inevitable only lessens our chances of promotion this term too.

Nice bloke but very poor manager. We need a manager who has experience of promoting sides from the English league (not the mickey mouse Scottish ones) and who has form for building teams through the leagues. We need someone who can squeeze far more from our half decent squad (at this level) and pick players to fit formations and not the other way around.

I don’t dislike Jack Ross the man but Jack Ross the manager has to go quickly, or we will still be a 3rd division club this time next season. Show some real ambition and go get Chris Hughton and this could still be a great season for Sunderland AFC.

Kevin Twinn (Chester le Street)

Ed’s Note [Gav]: As I’ve said in the two replies above this one, I think that regardless of our feelings personally on Ross that the results will ultimately decide his fate. His first season afforded him with a lot of leeway, but this time around it simply won’t be the case. If he can get a few wins in the next few weeks the pressure will subside, but failing to beat Ipswich and/or Pompey could prove fatal. Stewart Donald’s record of firing managers when he owned Eastleigh perhaps proves that he’s not afraid to pull the trigger when it’s necessary, so it’ll be interesting to see how everything unfolds in the coming weeks.