JACK ROSS hopes there will be a late surge for tickets to fill the Stadium of Light for the play-off semi-final with Portsmouth, even though his focus is on delivering a team performance regardless of how many fans turn up.

Despite recording a season high EFL crowd of 46,039 for the Boxing Day visit of Bradford City and seeing more than 41,000 turn up to watch Pompey’s League One appearance on Wearside last month, ticket sales have been slow for this Saturday night’s first leg.

Sunderland, who have averaged more than 32,000 fans this season for league games, have sold 22,000 tickets for the play-off battle with Kenny Jackett’s men, which perhaps highlights frustration among fans after missing out on a top two spot.

It is hoped that, despite no cash turnstiles for the game and a required purchase history of buying tickets, there will be plenty more inside the Stadium of Light come kick-off when Ross’ side will be looking to edge a step closer to a second Wembley appearance of the season.

But the Sunderland manager is trying not to focus on that too much, instead believing that if he can get his players in the right mind then his team can secure the result he craves to head to Fratton Park with next Thursday.

“The fan base here has been, and I imagine always will be, incredibly loyal because they care about the club,” said Ross. “Having an expectancy of what the club should achieve is not a problem. I’m fortunate to be here at this club where the supporters always do come out in numbers and back us. But stripping it back to just my job, whether there’s 100 people in the stadium on Saturday, or whether there’s 49,000 in the stadium on Saturday, it doesn’t matter to how I do my job and how I motivate my players to win the game.

“If I can motivate the players and we can win the game it then gives the fans the reward they deserve for their support.  "For the last week I’ve probably became quite insular in that my focus has just been on making sure that the team are absolutely ready and anything else I’ve not been aware of.

“I’m not even sure how many tickets have been sold, or whatever it might be, it’s just been about making sure whatever team takes to the pitch on Saturday, they’re set up to go and win the game.”

Portsmouth will head to Sunderland without a win in three, while Sunderland have won just one of their last seven league games which has cost them a top two spot, so momentum is not with either team.

However, after watching the events in the Champions League this week when Liverpool and Tottenham have reached the final after dramatic comebacks, Ross will not be reflecting on previous results ahead of such an important double header – and potential final.

“I genuinely don’t think it makes any difference going into the play-off matches,” he said.  “They have a different feel and intensity around them.  "I can point back to these two games over the last two nights, in these two-legged ties where there’s a lot at stake, you look for performance levels from players, you look to approach the game in a certain way, but there’s a lot of emotion involved in it and emotion makes players do things that you can’t predict.

 “I think Spurs and Liverpool are a nice example for people, and I’m not just saying this to deflect away from the responsibility of a manager or a coach, but it’s a nice reminder that we work in a sport that’s incredibly unpredictable and that’s why we watch it, and that’s why so many have commented in the last 48 hours saying they love football.

 “Some of the best players in the world make decisions in high-pressure situations that they wouldn’t normally, but they get caught up in the emotion.  "Any communication from a team-mate or a manager on the sideline becomes nigh on impossible because of the noise inside a stadium during these games."

Sunderland will at least be buoyed with the return of Aiden McGeady, provided he doesn’t suffer any late set-back on Friday. The Irishman is ready to be unleashed again as Sunderland look to deliver promotion.

McGeady has missed the last couple of games because of the foot injury which has required painkilling injections that allowed him to play in previous outings. He was rested at Fleetwood and Southend in a bid to get him back to fitness.

Ross said: “Aiden will train on Friday, but that has been a conscious decision. He possibly could have trained today, but the long break he’s been able to have has been of real benefit to him.

“Ideally, we’ve another two/three week rest and he would be completely healed, but he’s certainly benefited from the week, he feels good and is looking forward to the game."

In fact Sunderland will not have any other injured players for the double header because even Duncan Watmore has now returned to training after his lay-off.

Ross said: “We’re pretty much at full strength now. Aiden (McGeady) has benefited from this extended break that we’ve managed to give him.  "Lee (Cattermole) and George (Honeyman) had some minor issues that made them miss the Southend game but they’ll be fine, hopefully.

 “We’ve even had Duncan training with the group this week as well. Saturday will be maybe be a little too soon for him but we’re in good health going into the weekend.”