JACK ROSS has got the whole Sunderland squad together and moving in the right direction again, claims a player with three years of disappointment on Wearside.

Full-back Adam Matthews had struggled since moving to the Black Cats from Celtic in the summer of 2015, so much so that he spent a year on loan at Bristol City before the club’s drop into the Championship last year.

Matthews was back at the Stadium of Light to endure the fall into League One in May, which then led to uncertainty, a change of ownership and a change of manager to mark the start of Sunderland’s attempts to climb up the ladder.

But since Ross was appointed during the summer by owner Stewart Donald, there has been a freshness about the place and a new approach after a major overhaul of the playing squad.

Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce, David Moyes, Simon Grayson, Chris Coleman all had spells in charge during Matthews’ time in the North-East but he does feel Ross’ impact has been significant even if it is at a lower level.

“He’s been brilliant. I think we’ve got a togetherness which we haven’t had for a long time,” said Matthews. “We all get on, I’m not saying we didn’t get on off the field last season, but I think we’ve got a stronger bond this season. All the coaching staff have been brilliant and it does feel like a new club.

“He wants us to train like we play so it’s shorter times, but more intensity and I think that shows on the pitch.

“We’ve looked a lot fitter than we did last season and I think at the end of the games we always look like the team that’s going to score. That’s good, because if we’re not playing well we’ve always got the last 20 minutes to try to get a goal.”

Sunderland have only lost twice this season and are in the thick of the promotion charge, even if they have lost further ground on the top two because of the international break.

Ross’ side will return to action at Shrewsbury on Saturday aiming to close the four-point gap to second-placed Peterborough; leaders Portsmouth are three points further ahead.

Matthews said: “I don’t think we’ve played our best this season yet. We have a lot more to give and even in the games we’ve drawn, we should have won really.

“We’ve given away a couple of sloppy goals so if we can tighten that up I’m sure we can go on a very, very long run and win loads of games. That’s our goal.”

Matthews, who stunned fans with a brilliant assist in last week’s Checkatrade Trophy win over Carlisle, is enjoying his best season so far with Sunderland. There have been too many goals conceded from set-pieces, but given the number of changes to personnel in recent months then there is a plea for patience.

Matthews said: “We signed a lot of players in the summer and basically had a whole new back four. It is going to take time to gel and I think, especially the last couple of games, we looked really good.

“Obviously the goals weren’t great but I think we’re starting to gel as a back unit and a team so hopefully we can keep that going.

“We had a big overhaul of players so it’s going to take time, but if you look at the start to the season, we’ve only lost one game. Most teams would take that.

“Obviously we would have liked a bit more than what we have, but the performances in those draws give us encouragement. If we can tighten it up at the back we’re always going to score goals with the players we’ve got so hopefully we can go on a run.”

Former Sunderland defender Jake Clarke-Salter, meanwhile, has discussed his difficult loan spell at the Stadium of Light.

The England under-21 international spent time was on loan last season and was twice sent off during his 11 appearances.

“It was tough, I was 20 years old and obviously I had to deal with the responsibility because they were my mistakes,” Clarke-Salter told The Guardian.

“The first sending-off was a derby game and I made a badly timed tackle. The second one was just a bit of inexperience on my side. I’d just come back into the team, so I was gutted. But I’ve learned from it.”