Sunderland manager Jack Ross has been speaking to the press ahead of tonight’s crucial promotion clash at Barnsley as second play third in the game of the night in League One.
Barnsley in second are four points ahead of Sunderland in third, and if the Tykes avoid defeat tonight, they will have gone a whole calendar year undefeated at Oakwell. They are in great form, having beaten Accrington 2-0 at the weekend to extend their unbeaten run to sixteen games.
The Wearsiders do have game in hand on the Tykes and are on their own good run which has seen them unbeaten in seventeen games in all competitions. Indeed Sunderland have only lost twice in the league all season and Ross was keen to stress in his pre-match interview, reproduced in full on Chronicle Live when asked if it was a must-win game that every game fell into that category at a club like Sunderland. He said ‘Every game is a must-win game at Sunderland. That’s been my attitude since the day I took the job. I’ve never regarded any game as more or less important.’
‘When you manage or play for this club, every game is a must win. It’s just the reality of being at this club. Every game we approach in exactly the same way – and that’s with the aim to go and win.’
Around 4,500 fans are making the midweek trip to Oakwell and Ross left the tremendous backing the club has received this season has been an advantage, especially in a tight game like Saturday’s battle at Wycombe when Sunderland scores a late equaliser to earn a point. ‘it’s played a huge part.’ he said.
‘If you take Saturday as an example, we did well to get back into the game from that position, and it helps when you have so many people in the ground willing you on to get something from the game.’
‘It comes with a responsibility to try and give those that travel something to go home happy about, but I think we’ve enjoyed it this season. The players have by and large responded to it in a terrific manner, and they will just add to a brilliant occasion tomorrow.’
Despite having to make several changes due to injury and suspension, Ross was well aware that three points tonight will intensify the three-way battle for the two automatic promotion spots. Luton who tops the table are currently on a club record unbeaten run of twenty-three games, and Ross felt it was rare to have three such dominant sides in a division. ‘For three teams in one league to have such strong records is unusual and it’s what’s kept it so competitive at that end of the table.’
‘The aim for Barnsley tomorrow will be to try and give themselves a little bit of a cushion, whereas the incentive for us is to make sure that three-way fight continues, while not, of course, ruling out teams below us too.’
Ross has done a great job so far at the Stadium of Light.
He has managed to ship out the deadwood on high wages which was ruining the club and field a competitive team every week that are giving one hundred per cent for the famous red and white striped shirt.
If he can get three points tonight, it will be a massive boost to their automatic promotion hopes, but I feel they may well be happy with a draw. Whatever they do they must not lose.
Barnsley are a top side, and if they win tonight and extend the gap between the two clubs, I think they will take some catching.
One thing is for sure it will be a cracking atmosphere at Oakwell under the lights,