THE Netflix cameras charted the fall of one of English football’s biggest clubs as Sunderland hit their lowest ebb. On Sunday, they could take a stride forward on the road to recovery as Jack Ross restores pride in the team and the city step by step.

The eight-part ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ series that was first aired in December was a fly on the wall video nasty during a season that saw the Black Cats sack stumble from one crisis to the next, both on and off the park.

The second instalment will have Ross at the heart of it. This time, it could be a story of celebration rather than a tale of woe as Sunderland bid for promotion back to the Championship and a return to a level one down from where they feel they belong.

The League One challenge takes a back seat this weekend, however. Portsmouth, one point and one place better off than Ross’ side, are the opponents but it is the Checkatrade Trophy that will be up for grabs in front of an 80,000 crowd at Wembley.

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“Jack has done an exceptional job because it’s not the easy one,” Kevin Phillips, who became a hero in red and white during his six years on Tyne and Wear, said. “He’s gradually changing the image of the club and if they can get over the finishing line in the league and add a trophy it would be great.

“I actually quite enjoyed the Netflix documentary because it gave you an insight into how football clubs run under pressure through bad times.

“They are following them this season so hopefully they’ll show the documentary through good times - a promotion season and a trophy win at Wembley.

“I don’t live too far from Wolves and I’ve watched them closely and when they were relegated twice they got rid of a lot of dead wood and started rebuilding and look at them now.

“They could get to an FA Cup final and they’re sitting comfortably in the Premier League so they’ve learned from their mistakes and that’s the biggest thing for Sunderland - they have to learn from their mistakes.”

The final episode of the documentary deals with the moment that supporters had long waited for as businessman Stewart Donald brought Ellis Short’s controversial reign at the Stadium of Light to an end. The change in the dugout has been just as important, though.

Glasgow Times:

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Locals might have wondered why Sunderland would place such trust in a manager who only had a couple of seasons experience with Alloa and St Mirren, while those closer to home saw Ross taking what they perceived to be a gamble and joining a club with a chequered recent history.

None of those fears have come to pass. If Ross can win at Wembley and clinch promotion, his rewards will make those early risks seem inconsequential and his stock will never have been higher.

“They’ve sold 41,000 and Portsmouth have sold 40,000 so they’ll break the record for an EFL Trophy final and it just shows if you get them winning they’ll turn up in their thousands,” Phillips said.

“It’s a great achievement to get Sunderland to a final for a club that’s been in decline and they’ve got a great chance of promotion so it could be a really successful season.

“A lot of fans were surprised [when Jack was appointed] and I was too given the names linked with the club but it probably helped that he wasn’t a big name.

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“I remember when I signed for Sunderland and nobody had heard of me so that helped because I had nothing to prove.

“Jack knows it’s a big football club and he realised if he could get the sleeping giant going then he could become a club legend pretty quickly.”

Victory at Wembley this weekend would be another cherished moment for Ross to add to an already impressive CV, but it is the place in the Championship that he and his side really covet this season.

He has embraced the challenge and the culture of the club and the area, while quickly asserting his influence on a team that had to be overhauled at short notice.

The progress that Sunderland have made this season has pleased Phillips and the 45-year-old has plenty of admiration for the man that has made it happen.

Phillips said: “His experience of working with a limited budget - they’ve got the biggest in the league but not what it was in the Premier League and Championship - and knowledge of lower league players has helped with him.

“He’s not afraid to give young players a chance which is great in any league. I’ve watched them live this season and they’ve got a lot of energy and play a good attacking style of football.

“They have been under the cosh at times but never panic and just lump it up top. They keep playing their style and that tells me he’s very clear in what he wants and his message to the players is clear.

“He’s very calm and I’ve never seen him get irate the way you see a lot of managers in that league running up and down.

“If I’m a player on the pitch and see my manager calm when the crowd are getting on your back then it can only help you.”