World Cup keeper Pickford's praise for Kevin Ball, but has Sunderland legend a role in new regime?

Ahead of his probable World Cup debut, Jordan Pickford has made special reference to the part Kevin Ball played in his development at Sunderland, but has the red-and-white legend a role in the new regime at the Stadium of Light?

by Will_White Sunday, 17 June 2018 07:11 AM Comments

Previewing his probable World Cup bow on Monday night, Jordan Pickford has made special mention for the part Sunderland legend Kevin Ball played in his development, but the red-and-white stalwart's role in the new regime at the Stadium of Light remains unclear. 

In an interview aired during Saturdays's BBC1 World Cup coverage, Pickford recalled the drilling he and his young teammates received under Ball when he was coaching at the Sunderland academy:

"Dubbing [waxing] the boots, the coach's boots, the first team boots. Cleaning the dressing room, mopping the floors, everything. It was all about grounding for us, all about growing up - the maturing side, the growing up side. He [Kevin Ball] was the one for me". 

And on the development of his renowned kicking ability, Pickford suggested some spells in which Ball had him playing in a young Sunderland defence helped hone those distribution skills:

"He [Kevin Ball] put me on centre-half sometimes and I'd be the best centre-half. I've been a goalkeeper since I was five. Diving about on concrete with my brother, cos he was a centre forward, so some would say it was a short straw but it's come out alright". 

Ball is one figure regularly singled out for praise from Sunderland's academy graduates. Jordan Henderson is the other Wearside product in the England squad who remains in touch with the 53-year-old former Roker favourite. 

"Mr Sunderland" has been at the club pretty much continuously since 1990 when he was signed by Denis Smith. Since his playing days finished, Ball has held positions with the academy set-up and has twice been caretaker manager. Most recently he's been employed in an ambassadorial role, schmoozing sponsors and fronting fan engagement events. 

But with a new broom sweeping mercilessly through the backrooms of Sunderland AFC, does Kevin Ball have a future at the club? Some had anticipated he might revert back to his academy role following the departure of Jimmy Sinclair last month, but Paul Reid was plucked from Eastleigh's coaching staff last week to head up the Academy of Light.  

But surely with fan relations at the forefront of Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven's thoughts during their early days in charge of Sunderland, they can find a more substantial role for the man who has been so influential at SAFC and who is spoken of so highly by players, staff and supporters alike. 

New head of recruitment Tony Coton played with Ball under Peter Reid, and the two men linking up to identify and develop young talent is surely a more fruitful use of Kevin Ball's unique skill-set than demonstrating how to use the click-and-collect half time refreshment service at the Stadium of Light, as he did last season.  




Sunderland, kevin-ball, jordan-pickford, academy-of-light