Could this Sunderland legend be in line for prominent coaching role under new owners?
Stewart Donald has spoken of his determination to maintain the club's category one academy status, while legend Kevin Ball could be in line for a prominent coaching role.
As revealed by the Echo, under former owner Ellis Short and former chief executive Martin Bain, there were no plans to downgrade that status.
And the club's new owners are equally determined to maintain the top level status for its academy which has produced a steady supply of first team players in recent seasons, with Jordan Pickford, George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Ethan Robson, Joel Asoro and Josh Maja all breaking through.
The academy costs around Â£4million a year to operate at category one level but having an academy at that level brings benefits around recruitment and retention of players, while it also means Sunderland would be due a higher level of compensation should any of the youngsters leave.
Several factors are assessed as part of the grading process including training facilities, coaching standards and welfare provisions.
"We want to keep it as a category one academy,” said Donald.
"It is expensive to run, and I think we have to evaluate that, but we don’t want to become a category two academy.
"Category one was not passed off first time as I understand it. It took work to keep category one before, so we have to get in there and understand why it didn’t just sail through. But I want to keep category one status, and I think we will."
Sunderland’s youth set-up is run by academy manager Jimmy Sinclair, though his future is uncertain under the new regime. Sinclair was brought to the club by Bain, who departed on Tuesday after the role of chief executive was made redundant.
Legend Kevin Ball, who has the role of club ambassador, is well thought of by the new regime and he could be set for a new prominent coaching role within the academy set-up.
New director and minority shareholder, Charlie Methven, spoke very highly of Ball on the Roker Rapport podcast recorded earlier this week.
Methven said: "I don’t knock everything that the current management have done, but I don’t understand the Kevin Ball situation.
"A man in the prime of his career who has achieved phenomenal things - the England captain and goalkeeper coming through his youth team - wandering around doing club dinners at the age of 53, that’s just not right.
"That guy is absolutely in the prime of his coaching career, but we’ll be sitting down with Kevin and discussing a more proactive role because we’ve had meetings with him already and we like what we see."