‘It didn’t give me a thirst for reality television, that’s for sure,’ Jack Ross talks Netflix, pressure & guiding Hibs to Europe

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JACK ROSS is unlikely to be cowed by the scrutiny of life as Hibernian head coach.

Having been relentlessly stalked by a camera crew as he sought success at Sunderland, even the goldfish bowl of Edinburgh will seem bearable.

Ross’ only full season in charge of the Black Cats will serve as the second series of wildly popular Netflix documentary Sunderland ’til I Die, with the Scotsman a rather reluctant central performer in the real-life drama.

Ross, left, with sporting director Graeme Mathie

He has already seen snippets of the footage which follows a roller-coaster 2018/19 campaign. The club reached two Wembley finals – losing the Checkatrade Trophy to Portsmouth and the playoff decider to Charlton – and narrowly missed out on promotion from League One.

“When I first took the job, it wasn’t a certainty that there would be a second series. I said ‘no’, the board said ‘yes’. So the board won,” he smiles.

The next chapter of the show is due to be released in February 2020, by which point Ross hopes to have revived Hibs’ fortunes and be well on the way to proving Sunderland were foolhardy in dismissing him last month.

“I’ve managed to see some of the episodes of the next series,” he revealed. “It’s less enjoyable when you are in it than when you are just watching!

“A season of having a camera crew omnipresent and everything that goes with that is very different but it’s done now and if people judge me from how I appear on a TV programme rather than how I am first-hand, then so be it.

“You can watch it and pick out little things, saying ‘am I happy with that?’ But, truth be told, you make peace with it.

“Ideally, they wanted access to more than I was willing to give them and, as a result of that, I had to give up some of my own time for interviews and have camera crews in my car coming home from work.

“I’m sure people will enjoy watching it but it didn’t give me a thirst for reality television, that’s for sure!”

Series one of the show, which chronicled Sunderland’s doomed 2017/18 season, was a phenomenon but, given it was released after Ross took the reins in the summer of 2018, it did not factor into his decision-making when he made the switch from St Mirren.

He laughed: “To try to convince me to help them with [series two], they showed me little previews of the first series. And for some reason they decided to show me the clip where Chris [Coleman] comes out of the stadium after being relegated.

“I’ve no idea why they showed me that. The problem is: I had started the job already. If they had showed me that before I got it, I don’t know if I would have taken it! I hadn’t even taken charge of a game at that point and was thinking: ‘Oh aye, very good’.”

Ross can afford a little levity.

He firmly believes that he has landed on his feet at Easter Road just five weeks after being relieved of his duties at the Stadium of Light.

Moreover, he is adamant he is returning north of the border a far more complete boss after 17 months dealing with the suffocating pressure and weight of expectation at one of England’s troubled giants.

“There were ups and downs, highs and lows,” continues Jack. “But taking the opportunity to be Sunderland manager is something I will never regret. It was a terrific all-round experience; it was relentless and intense.

“I’ve reflected on things I could have done better but I think overall we had a record that was really positive in challenging circumstances.

“Selfishly, taking a team to Wembley is something I will never forget. To do it twice in three months, ultimately in painful circumstances, is still something I look back on.

“It’s such a huge job down there – I never imagined how big it was – and dealing with the challenges and taking on that responsibility every single day means I have had to evolve and develop in a lot of different ways.

“You live every moment of managing a club of that size – and all the pressure that entails.

“I feel I am better equipped after the experiences of the last seventeen months. I need to prove that by winning matches.”

To that end, Ross has arrived with lofty aspirations. The former Alloa and St Mirren manager is steadfast in his belief Hibs belong on the European stage and, even as they toil at the wrong end of the Premiership standings, he will not budge on that view.

Europe

“Hibs should always be challenging for top four,” he adds. “They should always be challenging for European qualification and domestic success in terms of trophies in cup competitions. The challenge is to do it consistently, every single season.

“It has qualified for European football. So can you do it every single year? That’s the next step for the club.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with Hibs fans believing that the club should do that.”

 
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