James Fowler has paid tribute to sacked Sunderland manager Jack Ross, and revealed how tears were shed by staff over his departure.

Former Alloa and St Mirren boss Ross was axed on Tuesday afternoon with the Black Cats sitting sixth in League One after 11 games.

Ross left the Buddies for the Stadium of Light in May 2018 and steered the club to fifth in his first season in charge before eventually losing an agonising play-off final to Charlton.

Ex-St Mirren boss Jack Ross sacked by Sunderland

Fowler, who served as Ross’ assistant at Sunderland and St Mirren, oversaw Tuesday’s 3-2 EFL Trophy victory over Grimsby and insists the 43-year-old made a huge impact behind the scenes even if results did not go to plan on the pitch.

Fowler said: “That one was for the manager. It shows how highly the manager is regarded.

“Even the staff at the Academy of Light (training ground), everybody is gutted the way it panned out.

“He will be disappointed how it ended but he can leave with his head held high, a lot of that is behind the scenes, bringing the academy as a whole back together again.

“Everyone would vouch for that. We are gutted. It is emotional, I am really gutted for him. 

“I have worked closely with him for three years, I have seen how much he has turned the club around, from day one, the things he has had to deal with in terms of players in and out.

Jack Ross opens up on being part of Sunderland Til I Die Netflix documentary

“He has also tried to change the culture, the biggest thing for me is the staff around the academy and the relationship he has built.

“Not just football staff, non-football staff too, there have been tears shed.

“Credit to him how he brought everyone back together again.”

Former Queen of the South manager Fowler, first team coach John Potter and goalkeeping coach Craig Samon now also face an uncertain future having been brought to the club by Ross.

Fowler added: “I have been asked, myself and John Potter and Craig Samson, to take the game and to take the next two training sessions.

“We take it from there and see what comes next.”

Meanwhile, Ipswich manager Paul Lambert, whose side lead the division, felt Ross deserved more time in the dugout.

The former Scotland and Celtic midfielder said: “I don't think he has had long enough at all - he's started to rebuild a club which was going down and down.

"It's probably unfair I think.

“I think people look at the division and what happened last year, where Sunderland are in stature as a club, and think they've got a divine right to be up there.

“I'm never really surprised by football because of the way the game is - people lose jobs even when things are going well.”