IT had been a while since Jack Ross was last in the North-East. Before taking over at Sunderland last summer, a spell as an astute right-back who joined Hartlepool United in 2004 didn’t last long.

Injury and a desire to get back to Scotland meant his spell at Victoria Park ended 14 months after he signed in a touch of acrimony.

His time back in the region as Sunderland manager promises much more. He’s in the same division as he played previously with Pools and he’s off to a very promising opening.

In the space of a few short weeks at the Stadium of Light, Ross has impressed all.

On the pitch he is turning around fortunes – the Black Cats are at Plymouth today three points off top spot in League One - and off it his demeanour and outlook has won over everyone who has come into contact with the focused and approachable 42-year-old.

His time at Pools helped shape his career and gave him a valuable insight into the demands of football in the North-East for when he was presented with the chance to return in the summer.

“I’ve always tried to reflect on all my experiences and I’ve got a lot better at it as I’ve got older,’’ he said.

“The things that I learned from my spell at Hartlepool helped me massively when I was deciding to come here in the first place, and then to adapt to. It was a different period of my life but there are different bits that have helped me.’’

Those experiences he endured at Pools have been put to good use in recent weeks; the manager has an understanding of what players are going through when they move from their comfort zone.

He added: “It has also helped me understand that there’s a lot involved for players when they move club. Luke O’Nien has taken a little bit of time to adjust and now we’re seeing the best of him but Luke has moved away from home for the first time and because he’s so young, has moved on his own for the first time. So he’s not just come to a new area, he’s living on his own for the first time.

“I wasn’t in that situation but it probably reminded me to try and take a more holistic approach because there are sometimes a lot of things going on with players that aren’t entirely evident from the training pitch.’’

And Ross praised the work of the club’s support network and staff who have been kept busy in recent months with 13 new signings arriving as the squad has been reshaped.

“The job that Leanne Bennett in particular does in particular in terms of assisting players with relocation and everything that goes with it is a tremendous help,’’ he praised. “Naturally it’s a great thing for me to have as a manager. You also try to put together a staff you believe will have an interest in the players’ welfare as well. I’ve got that.

“I’ve got a staff that are genuinely interested in boys being settled and happy and content and all these things because there is always a knock-on effect to performances on the pitch.’’

During his time at Pools, Ross was always a thinker, one of the players on the training ground who would always want to know what was going on and why.

He fitted well into a dressing room of strong characters, players who were part of the furniture at the club.

Questioning the management, taking an interest in training sessions and more were part of the Ross way.

He added: “I could be difficult to manage at times because I was opinionated and I liked to know why we were doing certain things but equally I would say I trained really well every day because I liked training. I used to get a little bit frustrated at times but by and large in football you’re working with grown-ups. We’ve got some young men in our team but they’re young adults and you’ve got to treat them like that.

“If you do that, and you pass the ownership of everything onto them, it’s about treating them in a certain way and believing it will be reciprocated. There were probably aspects of my playing experiences which made me want to be like that as a manager, never shying away from communicating with players – even difficult conversations.’’