Ball: Caretaker role’s not a problem to Sunderland players

Kevin Ball

Kevin Ball

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WHEN Kevin Ball was asked to take temporary charge of Sunderland in March, 2006, he took the helm of a club already resigned to its fate.

There were still two months of the season to run, but Sunderland were a rudderless, leaderless ship who would ultimately register what was then the lowest points tally in Premier League history.

A solitary win arrived under Ball’s stewardship – the final home game against Fulham – as Sunderland slipped out of the top flight at a whimper.

But his second spell at the helm is a completely different situation.

Ball knows from his own playing days that a caretaker manager does not necessarily equate to a drop in standards.

Sunderland’s players, freed from the shackles of the Paolo Di Canio regime, will want to impress Ball – if he gets the job on a permanent basis – plus any exterior candidates who will inevitably be taking a watching brief.

Ball said: “You play for your own pride. I played under a few caretakers at Portsmouth.

“There was John Gregory for a while, and I got on great with him, Frank Burrows changed things there when he took over, Alan Ball was caretaker before he took over.

“Sub-consciously, some might think, ‘He’s only the caretaker.’ But you would like to think their self-pride would drive them to be the best they can be.

“There may have been an element when I was caretaker last time – when there were only 10 games left and, let’s face it, we were getting relegated irrespective – that the players could have thought of me as a supply teacher.

“But this time, that can’t be the case because the club might say, ‘Right, we want you to take over now.’

“If a player, in this short period, has acted like that, he’s not going to be in the supply teacher’s good books, is he?

“Respect has to be earned and I understand that, but I would like to think that with my history as a player and knowing what I was like, it would be a two-way thing. I have to respect them, too.

“I hate losing. Anybody who plays football should be that way. We all have to lose sometime. Do you lose graciously? I would like to think so.

“But I will get the hump about it because that’s the way I am.

“The performance, first and foremost, is the important thing. People say, ‘I want to climb Everest’. Well, how are you going to do it’?’”

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