Jack Ross on pleasing Hibs fans, scoring a last-minute winner at Easter Road and starring in Netflix show Sunderland ‘Til I Die
“As a player here, I scored for Hibs in the 93rd minute, but I was playing for St Mirren,” he said, recalling the moment he inadvertently secured a 2-1 win for his new team in January 2010. “Is that a good memory? It’s a good memory for Hibs fans, I suppose. I always did okay here. I enjoyed playing here.”
Own goals were a theme of yesterday’s chat with Ross, who was no doubt relieved to hear there are currently no plans for a behind-the-scenes documentary series at Hibs. If there were any, chief executive Leeann Dempster would have been advised to keep the details to herself until after Ross signed his three-year contract. “Oh, by the way, Jack, don’t mind these cameras…it’s for episode one of Hail, Hail, the Hibs Are Here…”
Ross has had his fill of all that. He is braced for the release of the second series of Netflix’s Sunderland ’Til I Die, which chronicles last season’s attempt to gain promotion back to the Championship and the agonising way it ended, with two Wembley defeats.
What’s the only thing more difficult than being tasked with rousing a sleeping giant? Having to do so while the cameras followed your every move – or at least tried to –with the full permission of the club. They tried to break the news gently to him shortly after he agreed to join, showing footage of how the previous series ended – with Ross’s predecessor Chris Coleman being abused by a fan as he signed the back of a toddler’s shirt after the club’s second successive relegation was confirmed.
“When I first took the job, it wasn’t a certainty that there would be a second series,” explained Ross. “I said: ‘no’, the board said: ‘yes’. So, the board won.
“To try to convince me to help them with it, they showed me little bits of the first series. And for some reason they decided to show me the clip where Chris comes out the stadium after being relegated. I’ve no idea why they showed me that.
“The problem is, I had started the job already. If they had showed me that before I got it, I don’t know if I would have taken it!”
Ross had the good sense to mark out some boundaries, such as banning cameras from tactical meetings. But his authority only stretched so far.
“Ideally, they wanted access to more than I was willing to give them and, as a caveat to that, I had to give up some of my own time for interviews and have camera crews in my car coming home from work,” he recalled. “It’s very different.
“The people involved in the production crew were very nice, it was just about explaining to them at times that it was nothing personal. It was about me trying to get on with my job as best as I could, while they were trying to make a television programme.”
The results will be able to be viewed early next year, by which time Ross hopes to be firmly embedded at Hibs. He has already a seen a couple of the episodes.
“It’s very well done – just like the first series, it’s very well produced. It’s probably less enjoyable when you are in it than when you are just watching!”
The only audience he will have to worry about now is the Easter Road one. That is not to say they will be pushovers. They are discerning viewers.
Ross’s predecessor Paul Heckingbottom was ousted largely because the fans did not like what they saw. Starting this weekend against Motherwell, the new man has vowed to deal with the poor home form that Heckingbottom, probably unwisely, partly attributed to the nervous energy from the stands. Hibs have not won at home in the league since the opening day of the season.
“At St Mirren they had a particularly poor record in the new stadium and we turned that round,” he said. “I took a job at the Stadium of Light where I think they had won two league games in two years and we lost one in 16 months.
“I have been in positions where I’ve gone into clubs and the home record has not been too productive and ultimately you only turn it around through results.
“But it’s about ensuring the players have that belief and strength of character to play in your own stadium because results in your home stadium are the foundation for success. It’s something we have to address ASAP. We have the chance to do that straight away on Saturday.”