Kevin Ball's pride as former Sunderland pair prepare to make their World Cup bow
Kevin Ball says it will be a proud moment for Sunderland when Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson line up for England this evening.
The pair are both expected to start against Tunisia (7pm kick-off) and Ball, who coached both as youngsters in Sunderland’s academy, said it was testament to their focus and dedication.
He said: “I’m looking forward to watching them play.
“Wherever I’m watching, no one will have a clue that I was fortunate enough to coach those two players at real prominent times in their careers. I’ll be sitting there thinking, ‘Go on boys, show them how good you are.’
“I genuinely am immensely proud of both of them for me as a person but also for the club and the city of Sunderland, because they are part of us,
“They’re both so different and very, very focused in their own ways.
“Whilst Jordan Henderson has one way of doing things, Jordan Pickford will have another, but the end product for both is that they want to do as well as they can for themselves, their families and their teams, which, for me, is the most important thing.
“As a city, the fact that they’re from here, they’re part of us, is something we should be very proud of.”
Ball remains in touch with both and says that despite their success at club and international level, the pair remain true to their roots.
He said: “I was with Jordan (Henderson)’s dad recently and at any given time if I want to ring them I do.
“I spoke to Jordan Henderson not long ago.
“At the last World Cup, I was in America and so was he. His dad asked me if I was going to ring him up and I said, ‘No, he’s got more important things to do.’
“With that, half an hour later my phone rang and in half an hour I was in my hotel in Miami to meet for a cup of tea.
“That’s the sort of grounding Jordan Henderson has. He’s not changed.
“Then I’ll get a text off Jordan Pickford: ‘Hello Kevin, when are we having a coffee?’
“Then we’ll go and sit in the garden centre at Penshaw, chew the fat for an hour and then I’ll say, ‘Right, see you when I see you.’
“The club should take so much credit for that because are a grounded club and that’s the most important thing,” he added.
“And they love our club, they’re both Sunderland supporters.
“Both of them in their different ways left in the right way at the right time for their careers.
“Yes, we would have all liked it to have been under different circumstances, but we wish them well.”