JON McLaughlin admits he might not be a Scotland goalkeeper right now if it weren’t for Jack Ross. So it all came as something of a shock when he heard via Whatsapp that his club manager had been sacked as he prepared for his first competitive start for his country. The former Hearts goalkeeper was training with Steve Clarke’s side last Tuesday when he was plunged into uncertainty at club level but it didn’t stop him recording a clean sheet in his first competitive start for his country five days later against San Marino.

“I found out the news on the team WhatsApp chat,” revealed McLaughlin. “The boys found out once it had happened on Twitter. I think that was a bit of a disappointment for a lot of the boys to find out in that manner, although that is maybe the way things are these days, with things getting out when a decision is made. Someone hears it and puts it online. But being away from the club when all this is going on is difficult.

“I liked Jack as a man and as a manager and I enjoyed playing for him,” the goalkeeper added. “He did a lot for me, bringing me to Sunderland, and he had my full support. I know how hard it will be for him losing his job so I will speak to him.

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“He saw me when I was at Hearts and liked what I was doing. It gave him the confidence to take me to this huge club. I owe Jack a great deal for that. Last season hopefully proved it was a good move for me and the club. But I feel very disappointed for Jack and I feel partly responsible along with the other players. I hope this is a small setback in his career and he can go on and show how good a manager he is.”

While expectation is sky high at the Stadium of Light – the likes of Phil Parkinson and Nigel Pearson are now being linked with one of the hottest seats in the English domestic game – McLaughlin said that Ross’s departure came down to the finest of margins. Currently sitting sixth in the table, Sunderland can hardly be said to be out of the promotion hunt.

“From the outside the size of the club, it brings huge expectations and that is fair enough, it is football,” he said. “On the inside you know how difficult a job it is. We stand on quite a level playing field with a lot of the teams in our division. It isn’t easy to breeze over teams or anything like that. Winning games is difficult in the league.

“We have had a lot of draws and that has been an issue for us last season and this one so far,” he added. “If we had turned a few of them into wins then we would be flying, so it is small margins. We have plenty in the dressing room, more than enough to be right up at the top of the table. But we feel frustrated as it is early in the season and we aren’t that far off in the table. If it was Christmas and we were languishing behind teams, then it might be different but that is the job now. We have to find a way, as players to turn it around.”

As for Scotland, McLaughlin’s main issues against San Marino on Thursday night were keeping himself warm and limber in the midst of a Mount Florida monsoon. He barely had a shot to save on the night, although at one stage he felt his clean sheet was going to be wiped from the record books.

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“I don’t think I have had many quieter nights in my career,” said McLaughlin. “Although to be fair, I think that is the most running and stretching I have ever done to keep out the cold. I covered more yards than ever before as well just to keep myself amused when I was standing in our half myself.

“I thought after about 60 minutes the left hand side of the park I was thinking ‘I’m not going to get this cap’,” he added. “I thought it was going to be abandoned and for a minute it was looking dangerous.

“But it was a huge moment and a massive honour for me and my family. I might hide it with my accent but I am a proud Scotsman. I got a cap in a friendly against Mexico, but to get one for a qualifier, even though it was against San Marino, it doesn’t matter. To get a game at Hampden was fantastic.

“For my nerves it was probably better for me to have a quiet night, get a clean sheet and enjoy the experience.”