KEVIN BALL says Paolo Di Canio will relish life in the dug-out on his Tyne-Wear derby debut this weekend.
New Sunderland head coach Di Canio will have been with the Black Cats for less than a fortnight when he shoulders the hopes of Wearside in Sunday’s meeting with arch-rivals Newcastle United.
But far from being daunted by the responsibility, former Sunderland caretaker manager Ball says it will be an exhilarating experience for the Italian.
Ball took charge of Sunderland against the Magpies in 2006, just over a month after succeeding the sacked Mick McCarthy as Black Cats boss.
And even though a second half collapse saw Sunderland succumb to a 4-1 defeat, the club’s current Under-21 coach savoured the responsibility of tackling Newcastle from the dug-out.
Ball told the Echo: “When I took charge, the nice thing was we’d just got a result at Man United (a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford).
“I knew what it was going to be like from a rivalry point of view and an intensity point of view because I’d played in them.
“And I’ve got to be honest, it’s exciting.
“There’s no better feeling than being in that technical area and being the manager of the club.
“But it can also be very lonely as well if things are going against you – 4-1 down at the end of it, you can imagine how lonely it felt for me.
“I had to take responsibility for that though because I was the manager of the club.
“But it was a brilliant experience and anyone being in that position, will thoroughly enjoy it.
“And if they’re similar to me in how much I love the game and how much I love everything competitive, then I would say it’s a fantastic occasion.
“One thing’s for sure, our manager’s like that as well.”
Ball says there is little a manager can drastically alter on the training ground in the run-up to the game, even if both sides desperately need points in the battle for Premier League survival this year, albeit Newcastle boosted their hopes with victory over Fulham last Sunday.
“Did I prepare differently? Not really,” said the ex-Sunderland skipper.
“You just prepare the team in the way you would for any other game.
“If there’s any tactical work you want to do, you do that and get them in prime physical condition.
“But what can you do differently really? People get to know what it’s like, they understand derby-day.
“I think the fact it gets so much coverage now, anyone who is anybody will understand what it’s like for people in the North East.
“It’s a fantastic day for everybody.
“Even though both teams need points, I think you prepare the same way.
“Will that make the players more nervous? Well, we’ll find out on Sunday.”
Neither does Ball believe that the fierce intensity and rivalry between the two clubs will come as a shock to Di Canio after experiencing Glasgow, Rome, Milan and London derbies during his playing career.
“I would imagine over the course of Paolo’s career, whether it’s as a supporter or playing in them, he’ll know what it’s all about,” added Ball.
“I remember years ago, going to watch Brighton vs Crystal Palace and that gave me a taste of what derbies were like.
“He’ll fully understand it and be totally aware of the situation.”
H Ball was speaking at the Konect Derby Cup golf day to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Foundation of Light.
The team of Sunderland supporters, captained by Ball, triumphed over their Newcastle counterparts, skippered by former Magpies defender John Beresford.