JACK ROSS has ruled out leaving Sunderland to take charge of Scotland – and spelled out his determination to remain at the Stadium of Light next season no matter what happens in the final few weeks of the current campaign.

The Scottish FA have included Ross’ name on a shortlist of potential candidates to replace Alex McLeish, who was dismissed earlier this month, with the Sunderland boss receiving strong support from SFA board member Mike Mulraney, who worked with him at Alloa Athletic.

Ross is aware of the mounting speculation linking him with a possible return to his homeland, but insists his sole focus in the last few days has been his side’s preparations for tomorrow’s crucial promotion showdown with Portsmouth.

And while it remains to be seen what division Sunderland are playing in next season, with Monday’s draw at Peterborough having taken control of a top-two finish out of the Black Cats’ hands, Ross is adamant he wants to remain in his current role.

“I’m aware there’s a huge amount of speculation goes around with all managerial jobs now,” said the Sunderland boss. “But I’ve already spoken extensively about how much I enjoy the job here and how far I’ve got to go to have done the job properly.

“I would love to be the person taking this club forward next season, no matter what happens (in the final few weeks of the season). I’ve enjoyed the job immensely so far. It’s been different, and there’s been lots of things along the way that I’ve had to adapt to and learn from, but I’ve said before how privileged I feel to be manager of this club.

“I don’t ever walk in here and not appreciate what I’ve got to work with, and the structure of the club I’m at. The longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve learned.

“Potential is probably the wrong word because the club has been in a much higher position not too long ago, so it’s not something that’s never been realised. But I think a desire to take the club back to a certain level will always be there for me until it happens. I would love to continue to get the opportunity to do that for as long as I can.”

Ross’ immediate priority is tomorrow’s game with Portsmouth, with Sunderland almost certainly needing to win to have any chance of reclaiming a top-two spot.

Even a victory will prove insufficient if Barnsley win their final two matches, but with the League One promotion battle having served up plenty of twists and turns in the last eight months, Ross is expecting a few more surprises before the final whistle blows at Sunderland’s final game at Southend.

As if tomorrow’s game did not have enough riding on it anyway, with Portsmouth currently two points clear of Sunderland in the table, the Black Cats also have an opportunity to extract some revenge for last month’s Checkatrade Trophy final defeat at Wembley.

“When you lose a cup final, and particularly one like that, with such a big crowd and the way the game panned out, then it hurts,” said Ross. “It’s sore, and the players talked about remembering that feeling to spur them on to success this season.

“That’s the bigger picture, and it just happens that we’re playing the same opponent again in such a big game for both clubs. I don’t think it’s so much about it being Portsmouth again, I think it’s more about wanting to have a feeling of success at the end of the season and not have that feeling of disappointment that we had post the cup final.”

Reece James has not played since picking up an injury at Wembley, but the defender is back in contention for tomorrow’s game, along with his fellow full-back Adam Matthews.

“We’re edging back to pretty much a fully-fit squad,” said Ross. “Duncan Watmore is the only one that really remains out, and he’s getting closer as well.

“There’s obviously quite a few in that group who have only really returned to training this week, but other than Duncan, we’re getting towards everyone at least being back on the training pitch. Whether they’re at full match fitness is another issue, but at least they’re back on the training pitch.

“Reece and Adam have been back training for a few days. Adam has been out that little bit longer, Reece was out for less time, but they’re both back with the group now.

“We’ve had a lot of games, so we’ve only been training for a couple of days this week, but they’ve both managed that without any reaction.”

Aiden McGeady is also available despite an ongoing foot injury that requires the winger to take regular painkillers and prevents him from being able to train.

“When the injury happened, if the medical advice had been that his season was finished, then we would have accepted that, said Ross. “We got two or three different opinions, and once we understood there was a chance of him playing, that changed our thought process a bit.

“His contribution in the games he’s played has still been good. It’s a trade-off at the moment, and if there was a significant deterioration in how he was feeling, then we would change our thought process on it. That’s been something we’ve looked at on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis.”