THE smile and jovial spirit of Jack Ross has become a welcome sight at the Academy of Light, and even after seven months those are not on the wane.

In fact they are likely to be stronger if his hopes of seeing the Black Cats hold on to leads more often grows, as that is likely to mean a place in the Championship next season.

Sunderland can climb up to second by replacing Luton Town, who are under the guidance of caretaker boss Mick Harford when he returns to hometown, in the second automatic promotion spot this afternoon.

It has been something of a whirlwind six-and-a-half months in charge for Ross, who has already gone through a range of emotions since taking on a challenge plenty of his predecessors have been grounded by.

Ross said: “I was lucky because you don’t know until you go what it will be like, even though there has historically been Scottish players and managers here, and we are not far apart from north of the border, so there is a similarity.

“In football you never know the chemistry what will be around, but I have felt very comfortable at this club. It is a really good club to work at. The people here I get on well with and that has enabled us to move forward. Hopefully they will say the same about me.

“I maybe have struck lucky in that respect. It suits me. Good results help too of course. I just smile all the time here, it hides a multitude of sins!

“My family love living around here, I do, and I love coming to work. It does help that I am in here the vast majority of my life. I feel fortunate to do it. I said I would never regret it and how much I have enjoyed it.”

Beating Luton would be another one of those days to remember too. There will be another crowd of in excess of 30,000 at the Stadium of Light to witness the promotion duel.

He said: “Saturday should grab the imagination and one that people get excited about. I talk about consistency in approach and we do that, but the uncontrollable part is the emotion.

“I have a feel for matches, you can have that as a fan too when you feel something different before a game or during it.

“If you were at Fratton Park pre-Christmas then that had something different, even last weekend there was a little edge to the atmosphere at Charlton. If you have good players it helps to raise their performance levels as well.”

That Charlton game was another afternoon when Sunderland earned a lead and threw it away. Much has been made this season about how they have often come from behind to spare themselves a defeat, but Ross is now looking at ways for his team to become more effective in seeing out matches.

He said: “Statistically you can examine a lot of different aspects of the game, some are appropriate and some aren’t. From losing positions we have an unreal record.

“From winning positions we have not lost but we have drawn four when we have taken the lead. We want to make sure when we get into a winning position we make sure we do win. There are fine margins in this game and that’s one we are aware of. Hopefully we can put that right.”

How Ross achieves that seems certain to centre on an attacking approach, so don’t expect them to sit tight against Luton.

He added: “We do a lot more on how we create, even if we do some defensive work, but we do a lot of the work on the front foot and that is a reflection of us scoring in every league game this season.

“I don’t encourage them to shut up shop a lot. I would rather score again and I think we have the quality to do it. We need to show that ruthless edge more often. It is something we can fix, which is why we are trying to get another attacking player in.”