FOOTBALL management. The pressure of the game is enough to add years to a boss in a matter of months.

Take Jack Ross, 43-years-old. He’s away from the Stadium of Light on a matchday for a few weeks and, according to some familiar faces, he’s soon aged.

“I used to look young,’’ he smiled. “On Saturday I saw some of the staff for the first time since May and they said I was looking all right - but I told them I looked all right at the start of last season as well!’’

Four years younger and 20 miles down the A19 and Jonathan Woodgate has joined the management ranks. Now in charge of Middlesbrough, Woodgate is full of enthusiasm and verve as he prepares for his debut in the home dug out as boss tomorrow.

A stellar centre-half in his day, Woodgate has the admiration of Ross for taking the plunge as he stepped up from a coaching role at Rockliffe Park under Tony Pulis to replace his mentor this summer.

“It does make me feel slightly older because you see guys you recognised as players coming to the end of their careers,’’ mused Ross. “Jonathan has probably done it in a way slightly different to some ex-players because he’s been coaching within the club and gaining that experience. I always think that helps.

“If you’ve got a desire to manage and I think he’s always had that, if you’ve coached first it always benefits you as well because there is a greater onus on managers to coach now as well.

“I’m sure he got an early taste of the roller-coaster of management in his first game!”

For Ross, 12 months further down the line than Woodgate in English management, and coming up as three years as a boss from when he was appointed at St Mirren, it’s all about securing promotion.

The Black Cats have to go one better than last season when they were beaten in the play-off final. Tomorrow they go to Ipswich on the back of last weekend’s opening draw at home to Oxford.

He has made six new signings this summer, but while it was a revolution as he rebuilt a squad 12 months ago, this time around it’s more about adding to what he already has.

“It has felt a bit more settled just because I’ve been in here a year and last season was so turbulent and unpredictable,’’ he reflected, as transfer deadline day passed by without any fuss as League One clubs have another couple of weeks to add to their squad. “There has been a greater calmness but equally we’ve still had a fairly large turnover of players. That is a challenge.

“We have recruited but we’ve lost players for obvious reasons as well. We don’t want to have to do that time after time.

“There were maybe some circumstances around us having so many ‘new’ faces starting on Saturday with injuries etc.

“It just means you have to cram a lot of work into a short period of time to get everybody on the same page. I think in fairness to the players they have done that. I suppose for them the reward will come with winning games because naturally that makes it look like everything’s come together more quickly than if you don’t want.’’

Ross fielded three centre-halves last week as he has done in pre-season in a bid to be more adventurous as one end, while keeping it tighter at the back.

This time around there’s only one thing on the agenda: promotion.

“We just want to make sure we don’t fall short on the small margins again - it sounds very obvious,’’ he said. “We were very close last year and we don’t want to be very close again. We don’t want to have that repeated message of frustration where we have had more possession and territory, we have had more of the play in the final third but we haven’t won the game. We can’t have that as a hard-luck story throughout the course of the season.

“Having greater versatility and flexibility and having more options, especially at the higher end of the pitch where I feel as if we’ve got a good number of players competing for three or four attacking places every week. Hopefully that brings out the best in them.’’