JACK ROSS has dismissed speculation linking him with a possible move away from Sunderland, and insisted there are still plenty of things he wants to achieve before he even considers a potential departure from the Stadium of Light.

Ross’ stock has risen significantly since he took over at Sunderland at the start of last summer, with his ongoing pursuit of promotion from League One attracting attention from a number of quarters.

West Brom are still to appoint a permanent successor to Darren Moore, and with one of their leading targets, Alex Neil, having signed a new deal at Preston this week, the Hawthorns hierarchy are considering a formal approach for Ross’ services.

At the same time, the Scottish FA are understood to have included the Sunderland boss’ name on a list of candidates they would consider approaching if Alex McLeish is unable to turn around the disastrous start to his second spell as Scotland boss.

Ross insists he remains fully focused on Sunderland’s promotion push, with the forthcoming Easter double-header against Doncaster and Peterborough likely to prove crucial, and is adamant he has no interest in considering alternative positions while his rebuilding job on Wearside remains at such a formative stage.

“I genuinely haven’t read anything this week – I’m trying to be clear-headed about what we’re trying to do,” said Ross, who joined Sunderland after winning the Scottish Championship title with St Mirren. “I’ve said time and time again how much I enjoy this job, and also how much I’ve still got to do within it.

“For however long I’m here, that’s what I’ll be focused on, and my commitment to the job I’ve got to do here hasn’t changed. That’s the only thing I’m focused on and there’s still an awful lot of things I want to achieve at Sunderland Football Club.”

Securing automatic promotion is the number one priority, and while last weekend’s remarkable 5-4 defeat to Coventry City saw Sunderland drop to third, a top-two finish remains in their own hands as they continue to have a game in hand on second-placed Barnsley.

Win their final five matches, and the Black Cats will be guaranteed a place in the Championship, although that could be easier said than done given the difficulty of the games that remain.

Sunderland’s next three matches pit them against Doncaster, Peterborough and Portsmouth – all teams in the top seven – before a midweek trip to Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town precedes their visit to Southend United on the final weekend of the season.

When Ross was recruiting players in the summer, he regularly talked of the pressures of playing for a club like Sunderland, and claimed that character was as important as technical ability. The next five games will prove whether his judgement was sound.

“A lot of them have shown they can deal with pressure,” he said. “But equally, when you get to this stage of the season, it ramps up again if you’ve still got something to play for. That’s not just for us, although I think the spotlight has fallen on us for quite a lot of the season, it’s for all the teams that are up there.

“I’m sure all the four teams (Luton, Barnsley, Sunderland and Portsmouth) will feel the same pressure going into games, believing that they need to win them all. Maybe Luton have a little but margin for error, but the rest of us know what is at stake, so as much as the players have handled things well so far, this will be another test for them.

“The pressure ramps up another notch, and once we get past Friday, it will ramp up another notch on Monday again too.”

As well as handling the increased pressure, Sunderland’s players will also have to prove they can defend much better than they did on Saturday as they shipped five goals to Coventry.

Ross was reluctant to point the finger of blame at his defenders in the immediate aftermath of the 5-4 defeat, but he must be considering alterations to his back four tomorrow. Jimmy Dunne could come in for his first start since the goalless draw at Barnsley in the middle of last month, while Alim Ozturk and Glenn Loovens could also come in from the cold to replace either Tom Flanagan or Jack Baldwin at the heart of the back four.

“I don’t think we’ve made any kneejerk reactions or decisions over the course of the season, but we’ve always considered the previous game and the games previous to that when picking a side,” said Ross. “You also judge players on what you see on a daily basis, and having this full week has been helpful in that regard.

“We’ve been able to look at players and see where they’re at mentally and physically, and we’ll then choose what we consider to be the right team based on what we think we need to beat Doncaster and what we’ve seen this week as well.”

Lee Cattermole and Chris Maguire should be available tomorrow, but Aiden McGeady remains a major doubt despite having been a second-half substitute last weekend.

“Lee should maybe not have been in the squad last weekend because he’d only returned to training at the end of the week, but we were so short on numbers we probably needed him just in case. He’s had a full week of training this week, so he’s much more in contention,” said Ross.

“Aiden is still not training, so he remains extremely doubtful. We obviously managed to get a little bit of game time out of him last Saturday, but probably shouldn’t have.

“We’ve got a few that are just returning to training today – Lynden (Gooch), Adam (Matthews), Reece (James) – but have had injuries and have been out for quite a long time, and Chris Maguire probably falls into that bracket too.”