It was Ross’s first chance to travel to a Sunderland game since leaving the club; his recent dismissal from Hibernian opened up his weekends, and so this one was spent watching a Sunderland side whose hopes are dwindling.
He acknowledged that there have been a lot of changes since his own departure from the club in October 2019, no more so than in the past three weeks.
There are few faces like Ross from his time at the club, but the club find themselves in the same predicament, and that’s something the Scotsman has also acknowledged.
The Black Cats have arguably never felt so far from promotion during their time in Ligue 1, and there has arguably never been a greater sense of disconnect between the fans and the club.
The last week has only widened the gap between supporters and club management even further, and if this continues even more supporters will lose their love for a club that is ingrained in their identity.
And on that issue, if Sunderland continue to follow the same form, they will lose even more supporters in the short term.
At the moment, the Black Cats simply and frankly have no confidence. They lack quality in the attacking areas and at the back, the supporters’ heart rate is rapidly skyrocketing.
And yet, we return to the comparison at the end of 2021. Sunderland was flying, leading the championship and 12 points ahead of the play-off places.
Now the Black Cats lack composure, confidence and, as Alex Neil has said in recent days, fitness.
Lee Johnson built a young team that was always going to have mistakes, maybe not as many as the team we are seeing now.
These players need time to recuperate, recuperate and prepare for the final 13 games, but time is Neil and his players’ biggest enemy right now.
On Saturday there were some quality moments in the attacking areas, but even then they were too brief and just not built.
Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts and Elliot Embleton all looked sharp during their introductions, but even then they produced little moments of game-altering magic.
Alex Neil, somehow, has to find a way to change the shape of his team and quickly, otherwise the play-offs might even be out of order.
And it is this format that Jack Ross knows all too well.
This proved to be one of his fatal blows during his tenure at the club as, in truth, he was never fully able to recover from the Wembley heartache.
And, if this is a process Alex Neil has to go through this summer, it may be one of the first ‘death blows’ of his reign as the club’s head coach.
Ross began the club’s tenure in League One in 2018, but four years on Sunderland’s predicament looks bleaker than ever.
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