JACK ROSS takes his Sunderland side to Ipswich Town this afternoon. He could just as easily be in the home dug out at Portman Road.

While Ross’ stock was on the rise last summer as he steered St Mirren to promotion, Ipswich appeared to be his destination. He was one of four candidates in the running to replace Mick McCarthy.

The Tractor Boys instead opted for Paul Hurst, who lasted only months amid a disastrous spell.

Ross ended up taking charge at the Stadium of Light.

“I spoke to the club and to (owner) Marcus (Evans) and got on really well with them but for whatever reasons things took a different course for both of us,’’ reflected Ross.

“After everything I’d read, found out and done my homework on that club I knew how big a club it was and it’s history but for me I’ve always maintained I would never, ever regret taking this job on. It’s a tough job and a challenging one but equally it’s an enjoyable one as well and I still enjoy every minute of it.’’

Both clubs have Premier League pedigree, both are expected to be among the front runners to get back to the Championship this season.

Like the Black Cats last season and this, the Tractor Boys are a big draw in the third tier of English football. Ross accepts the expectations and pressure that comes with it.

He mused: ““Ipswich… even if I had any advice to offer about this division… they are competing with us for promotion. Any club who other teams view as a big club, same as teams going to Portman Road and their history means it’s challenging and I’m sure they will know it week in, week out.

“Is it a good time to go there? I don’t look at it like that, we have to play them twice anyway and the challenge never changes. Games aren’t harder or easier depending on when the fall.

After the departure of Hurst, Paul Lambert was appointed his replacement and was unable to halt the slide out of the Championship.

Lambert has won this division before, leading Norwich to the title in 2009/10, raking in 95 points.

The former midfielder has some pedigree in the game, but despite playing 40 times for his country, managing in Scotland and playing for Celtic, St Mirren and Motherwell, their paths have not crossed before today.

Ross said: “He played for one of my former clubs in St Mirren but I haven’t come across him. He’s spent a lot of time in England in coaching and management so Saturday will be the first time I’ve come across him.

“There’s not many Scotsmen have lifted the European Cup. Andy Robertson did it last season but Paul was the first in a number of years so he’s hugely respected in Scotland in terms of what he’s achieved within the game.

“He turned 50 on Wednesday so he’s obviously got a vast experience in coaching and management and he’s had success in this league. I’m sure he’ll look to replicate that this season.

“I know they’ve had a certain amount of transition although they’ve had stability of ownership they’ve gone through quite a transition in terms of what they can spend and do.’’

Ross added: “Ipswich are in a similar spot to us 12 months ago. We knew this was a tough one to go there for their first home game.

“We go there to win and once things settled last weekend, I think the players realised part of their game was good and if we can improve we will turn draws into wins.’’

The Black Cats started their season with a home draw against Oxford, with a feeling among the support of here we go again after last season’s failure to secure enough points to finish in the top two.

Ross said: “The margins in which we fell short last year were small.. There’s a myth around those margins. It’s not about scoring enough goals, again I’m repeating myself but you need to score 75 goals on average to get promoted. We scored 80.

“On average you need to keep 20 clean sheets to get promoted and we kept 13.

“This myth about falling short is different to reality. Keep a clean sheet, we score and we win the game.’’