Ball wants Sunderland youngsters to know what’s at stake

Kevin Ball

Kevin Ball

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NEW reserve team coach Kevin Ball is eager to ensure Sunderland’s young professionals are aware of the sacrifices needed to make the grade in the Premier League.

Former Sunderland skipper Ball was named the club’s new second string boss earlier this week after eight years working as the Black Cats U18s coach.

Ball will take charge of a reserve side largely composed of academy graduates in the early stages of their professional careers, and he wants them to make the most of their opportunity.

“I will have a foot in both camps,” said Ball. “I will talk to the manager about players who could go into the first team, or whether I can help him with any player going down or coming up.

“People have to understand that the boys are at a vulnerable age in a sense of kids want to go out and enjoy themselves.

“They have to make sure that is tempered with trying to become a professional footballer.

“My job is to try to help them understand that because it can be very difficult for them.

“But if they want to be pros then they must make some massive sacrifices. I am there to help and guide them.”

Ball has pledged that those who don’t make the grade will not simply be cast aside though.

The two-time promotion winning midfielder experienced the despair of rejection in his formative years, yet benefited from getting a second chance at Portsmouth before moving to Sunderland in 1990.

“I remember getting told by my manager at Coventry, Dave Sexton, who just told me they didn’t have the money,” added Ball on the club website.

“I wasn’t getting a contract and it was a case of thanks very much and goodbye. He was very polite about it, but that was it.

“I was fortunate in that the youth team manager at the time had wanted me to stay and put me in touch with Portsmouth, so I went there.

“Now if that hadn’t have happened, if that little link hadn’t been there, I might not have become a footballer.

“So we don’t just bring young kids up to be players. Mistakes do get made and the thing is to learn from them.

“I always told the players when they leave that they have my number and to let me know if they have a problem so we can talk about things.

“I’d find it very difficult if we just binned them. We do have an exit strategy and an education officer with good ideas if things don’t work out for them.”