Jack Ross has been in office for one calendar year on Saturday and the best anniversary present would be to secure promotion to the Championship.
Sunderland go up against Charlton Athletic in a repeat of the ‘98 Play-Off Final this Sunday at Wembley, kick-off 3pm, hoping to end their hoodoo at the national stadium and clinch promotion.
The Black Cats are winless at the home of football in their last six visits, with Sunday providing the Lads with their second chance this season to secure their first Wembley victory since the ‘73 FA Cup.
Following a year of complete change back home in the north east, Scotsman Ross knows the weight of expectation on his shoulders as he heads south with promotion the main goal when he walked through the door 12 months ago.
“The way the season ended for us, we received the disappointment of not achieving automatic promotion, and we had a couple of indifferent performances towards the end as well,” he said.
“I think it allowed us to take a breath, regroup, and realise we still had a chance for success this season.
“It probably came for us at a good time - that period between our final league match and the play-offs.
“In that period, I said to the players they had to come to terms with that and they were looking forward to these three games, or what he hoped would be three games.
“So, the last few weeks have been very enjoyable, and the players have responded very well. We’ve been quite calm and focused - I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been at Wembley already this season?
“Even this week I’ve not noticed anything different about them. They’re in a good place, but there’s not any extra excitement about them. They’re just really focused on trying to win at the weekend.”
“It has been long. This week I saw it’s been a year since Stewart took ownership officially and it obviously wasn’t that long afterwards that I took the job.
“And pretty much as soon as I took the job I was here, so it’s been a long year in that respect. But it will have been a fruitful one if we can finish the job on Sunday.
“The season has obviously been extended and we’ve played a lot of games within it, but it will be judged on whether we’ve been successful or not by whether or not we win the game this weekend.”