JACK ROSS is confident Jon McLaughlin’s decision to withdraw from the Scotland squad to concentrate on Sunderland’s promotion charge will not harm his long term international ambitions.

McLaughlin is third choice goalkeeper for his country behind Rangers’ Allan McGregor and Celtic’s Craig Gordon, so when the Black Cats decided to go ahead with next Saturday’s League One date with Wycombe he was always going to have a decision to make.

The 31-year-old has become a key figure for Sunderland since arriving in the summer and his performances between the posts have helped to keep four clean sheets in a row.

His displays have not gone unnoticed by Scotland boss Alex McLeish and he was keen to have him involved in the get togethers to face Israel and Albania. However, after the player’s discussions with his club boss, Ross has stepped in.

“The conversation I had with Alex was just around our situation,” said Ross, who could had the visit of Wycombe postponed because of the number of Sunderland players called up for international duty.

“It could be problematic for us further down the line if we postponed the Wycombe game. If we do continue to progress in the cup competitions that would only make it more difficult.

“Alex was good about it. A lot is down to the manner to which you approach it. If Jon had to be part of the squad, I would have had no issue with it, the opportunity to represent your country is always a big one.

“I would never force a player’s hand in that sense. Jon and I had a conversation and he knew how I was going to communicate with Alex.

“He knows I am not speaking out of turn when I say Jon is third choice with Scotland, when you have Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon who are both hugely experienced goalkeepers but also actually in very good form.”

McLaughlin only has one cap for his country and Ross feels the former Hearts shot-stopper can soon force his way back in, even though Kilmarnock’s Jamie MacDonald has now been included at his expense.

Ross, whose side face Port Vale in the FA Cup on Sunday, said: “Jon knows where he stands. That makes it easier for Alex as well. It might have been a different story had he been first or second choice. The first dialogue I had with Jon, if he had been adamant that no matter what he was going, then that would have been fine with me.

“We would have dealt with it. Jon is very laid back about things, either way he would have been fine. My desire was for him to stay with us and play the game. It is an important league game for us and he is in good form. It is an advantage for me that I know Alex, he understood our position.

“I don’t imagine it will count against Jon. There may be occasions while we remain in this league that there is that potential for a conflict between our league games and international weekends.”

McLaughlin is not the only Sunderland player who is affected by the international break. Defender Tom Flanagan will be on Northern Ireland duty, while Bali Mumba is playing for England Under-18s. There could also be a call for Sweden’s Benjamin Kimpioka.

Ross, who does have Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo around because of injury, said: “We are in a reasonably unique position, although I think Charlton postponed their game because of call-ups.

“It’s not that often it happens outside of the Championship. I’d imagine there are some Championship teams who have the game off without having anyone called up. It is a consequence of your success sometimes.

“We will be without Bali Mumba at Morecambe on Tuesday because he is with the England Under-18s and he would have played in that Checkatrade Trophy game. From my perspective I would say he is better of playing a first team game but I have to be respectful of the national teams.”

Sunderland did not report any fresh injury problems for the trip to Port Vale. Ross insists that he will be treating it as a normal weekend fixture, while then making changes for Tuesday’s trip to Morecambe.

The likelihood is that midfielder Max Power will be included at Vale, however. Power has missed seven first team games through suspension after two red cards, as well as a further two because he was not allowed to play in the Checkatrade under the terms of the ban.

His two dismissals means he runs the risk of a further five match ban if it is a straight red offence, meaning he will have missed 12 games since arriving in the summer – plus the two in the Checkatrade he was also unavailable for.

Ross said: “We had conversations in the aftermath of his second sending off in particular. I have always maintained that his first was debatable. He understands the second was very much out of character for him.

“I think it has only been highlighted because it was on the back of the first one. The sanctions that come with those are fairly heavy, I am not quite sure they are always appropriate.

“They were fairly lengthy bans to pick up quickly. Max and I get on very well and we speak all the time. He is experienced enough and has enough knowledge of the game to know he can’t do that again. He doesn’t want to be in that situation again.”

But Ross knows that playing matches is what he needs. He said: “Max’s fitness levels are generally very good. He conditions himself very well and spends a lot of time on the training ground.

“There is no substitute for match fitness but if you look at his season to date, he missed a bit of pre-season with Wigan, but after his move we threw him straight in against Luton. I have no qualms over his fitness, he might fatigue but generally his levels are good.”