Jon McLaughlin: Way I heard of Ross sacking at Sunderland ‘disappointing’

The mind of Jon McLaughlin must have felt like a tumble drier this week as his emotions were tossed around. The Sunderland keeper ended last week with a first Scotland cap at Hampden in the slaughter of San Marino. Only a few days earlier, though, the 32-year-old required to process the slaying of his club manager, Jack Ross,the man who took him to the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2017.

Scotland and Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin
Scotland and Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin

The circumstances surrounding Ross’s sacking after little more than 16 months in charge left McLaughlin rueful over modern ways, both in life and football.

“I found out the news on the team WhatsApp chat,” the keeper said. “The boys found out once it had happened on Twitter. I think that was a bit of a disappointment for a lot of the boys to find out in that manner. That is maybe the way things are these days, with things getting out when a decision is made. Someone hears it and puts it online. Being away from the club when all this is going on is difficult.

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“I haven’t spoken to Jack yet, but I spoke to Craig Samson, our goalie coach, and I told him I will speak to the gaffer. I said I thought it was best to leave it for a few days and let him process it and deal with it in his own way. I liked him as a man and a manager and I enjoyed playing for him. He did a lot for me, bringing me to Sunderland, and he had my full support. I know how hard it will be for him losing his job and I will speak to him.

“He saw me when I was at Hearts [and he was in charge at St Mirren] and liked what I was doing. It gave him the confidence to take me to this huge club. I owe Jack a great deal to do that. Last season hopefully proved it was a good move for me and the club. I feel very disappointed for Jack and I feel partly responsible along with the other players. I hope this is a small setback in his career and he can go on and do good things at another club and show how good a manager he is.”

Ross didn’t do badly at Sunderland, but they are still a League One club and he was unable to excavate them from the third tier owing to a Wembley play-off defeat in June. A defeat by Lincoln City left them sixth in the table, but, across his tenure, it was one of only seven league reverses he suffered on Wearside. Of the teams in England’s four senior set-ups, only Liverpool and Manchester City have suffered fewer such defeats in the same timespan.

“From the outside, the size of the club brings huge expectations and that is fair enough, it is football. On the inside you know how difficult a job it is,” said McLaughlin. “We stand on quite a level playing field with a lot of the teams in our division. It isn’t easy to breeze over teams or anything like that. Winning games is difficult in the league. We have had a lot of draws and that has been an issue for us last season and this one so far. If we had turned a few of them into wins, then we would be flying. It is small margins.

“At big clubs, and high-pressure jobs, those fine margins count for a lot and, for the gaffer, it has been costly. As players, we have to look at ourselves and acknowledge we have let the manager down as well. We have plenty in the dressing room and more than enough to be right up at the top of the table.

“We feel frustrated as it is early in the season and we aren’t that far off in the table. If it was Christmas and we were languishing behind teams, then it might be different but at the end of the day that is the job now. We have to find a way, as players, to turn it around.”