We’ll never know if Ross would have been a success at Ipswich... but he now comes to Portman Road as a man under pressure
- Credit: Archant
Andy Warren looks ahead to Ipswich Town’s first home game of the 2019/20 season as Jack Ross’s Sunderland visit Portman Road on Saturday afternoon...
We will never know what would have happened had Jack Ross taken the reins at Ipswich Town.
The Scot, then in charge of St Mirren, was one of the final four candidates when Marcus Evans was looking to replace Mick McCarthy last summer and was interviewed twice. He was appointed by Sunderland before that process was complete, though, with Evans going on to stress Paul Hurst had always been his first choice.
When asked about the Ipswich job since, Ross has simply insinuated the move to Portman Road was not the right one at the right time and you have to say he may well have made the correct decision.
Would Ipswich still be a Championship club with him in charge? Who knows.
Ross oversaw a dramatic first season at the Stadium of Light which included two Wembley defeats and now, following a 1-1 draw with Oxford on the opening day, arrives at Portman Road for the first time under plenty of scrutiny.
There are question marks onn Wearside over his system, his side's intensity, killer instinct and organisation.
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There's concern that his work in the transfer market has not been enough but also an acknowledgement that he is caught in the crossfire between expectation and the reality of Sunderland's situation.
There's a sense he must now prove he's the man to lead the Black Cats forward during their second season in the third tier, with consistent results expected sooner rather than later. There's even talk among fans that he has just 10 games to make his point before his position should be under real threat.
If things had turned out differently Ross could have been in Portman Road's home dugout this weekend but his first visit to the Blues' famous old home is now the setting for a real early season test that could shape his future.
Paul Lambert went with a 4-4-2 formation at Burton Albion, with Kayden Jackson joining James Norwood in attack.
The two were a handful during the first half, with their pace and willing running ensuring the Brewers' defence were given a tough 45 minutes and had no time to rest.
But as the game went on the hosts were able to make their numerical advantage in midfield count, which in turn meant the supply line to the strikers dried up.
Lambert responded by replacing Jackson with Alan Judge, with the Irishman sitting behind Norwood and ensuring an increase in possession for the visitors.
Sunderland started with a 3-5-2 formation at the weekend, utilising wing backs and packing the midfield, meaning Lambert could respond, get Judge in the side, provide solidity in midfield and use the Irishman as his platform from which to play.
Return of the skipper
Captain Luke Chambers will come back into the Ipswich Town side this weekend after serving a one-match ban at Burton.
Despite the three points it wasn't a fun viewing experience for the Blues' leading man, who kicked every ball, contested every header and even joined in the calls for the referee to blow the full-time whistle deep into injury time.
He, like everyone watching from an Ipswich perspective, had his heart in his mouth as Tomas Holy's sluggishness in possession was so-nearly punished in the final few minutes before the ball dropped wide of the post.
But who will he partner?
Luke Woolfenden and James Wilson were paired for the first and possibly only time in an Ipswich Town defence and, considering they hadn't played a competitive minute together prior to the game, performed well.
While Wilson left the contest early with cramp, Woolfenden edged it in terms of performance, with his late clearance winning the game for the visitors.
While the experience of Wilson would be a asset alongside Chambers, it would be no surprise if Woolfenden is given a first Portman Road start.
Word has it that the Blue Action group have a display planned for Saturday's game.
This group of fans did so much to help improve the atmosphere at Portman Road last season, with their 'there is a light that never goes out' display for the final game of the season particularly poignant.
The group met with Lambert and his coaching staff at the training ground once again this week and it will be exciting to see what they have in store this season as they grow in number.
A crowd of more than 20,000 is expected this weekend - it should be a good atmosphere, which hopefully the team can rise to.