Rowell Report: Ball’s positivity can rub off on Sunderland players

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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IT was clear to those of us sat in the same room as him on Sunday, that Kevin Ball had mixed feelings after the Liverpool game.

Watching him go through his post-match Press conference, you could tell he was understandably disappointed at the result, but also that he was trying his best to remain upbeat because he knew his players had given him everything on a day that, yet again, a huge decision went against Sunderland.

It’s not every day you see a player scoring a goal with his elbow and getting away with it, but that’s what Liverpool’s Danny Sturridge managed to do at the Stadium of Light.

And given that in our last home game, another refereeing howler denied Jozy Altidore a perfectly good goal, you could be forgiven for thinking the whole world is against us at the moment.

But Sunderland’s problems run far deeper than bad refereeing decisions and it would be wrong to blame everything on bad luck – even though we had more than our fair share at the weekend.

Sunderland are showing worrying signs of a team expecting the worst.

And when that happens, a losing mentality can quickly invade the dressing room, if it’s not there already.

This is why Kevin Ball, quite rightly, tried to be upbeat and focused on the positives after the game, rather than dwelling on the things that went wrong.

In doing so, he is protecting his players – which, on almost every occasion, is good management.

There were positives though.

And the biggest positive for me was the performance of Lee Cattermole who proved yet again, if proof were needed, that Sunderland are better with him in the team, than not.

If he had been available earlier in the season against the weaker teams we’ve played, when our midfield was so lightweight, we’d surely have more points.

Yet again though we conceded three goals and this simply cannot be allowed to continue.

There’s a lack of real pace throughout the team, but noticeably in the back four where at times on Sunday, Sturridge and Luis Suarez were simply too quick for our defenders.

They are a formidable pairing and it was just our luck that Sunderland provided the league opposition in Suarez’s first game back after a 10-game suspension.

And just like Stephane Sessegnon last week, it was inevitable the pre-match focus of interest would be a major contributor to our downfall.

Suarez may be a character with flaws, but he always poses a threat and always seems to be at his best against Sunderland.

Sadly for us, it all went according to the script.

So another game for Sunderland ends in another defeat and it’s all becoming depressingly familiar.

But Kevin Ball is a fighter who won’t give in and no-one should under-estimate the value of that quality in the situation Sunderland are in.

He refused to criticise his players afterwards, which seems to be how they like it, so now the team must take a leaf from Bally and find a similar attitude and mentality as the interim head coach.

It is the ONLY way to start turning things around.