Kevin Ball

Ball looking for improvement

by Ashley Houghton

U21 coach unhappy after Rovers defeat.

Sunderland's under-21 coach Kevin Ball says his young players have to kick on if they are to succeed at senior development level.

Ball looked on as his young side went down 2-0 to Blackburn Rovers on Monday evening at Eppleton CW.

And he told that he wants to see more desire from his players as they approach the end of the campaign.

At half time I told them I was very disappointed, in the sense that I felt one or two of them didn’t display the attitude I wanted them to

- Kevin Ball

“It is disappointing because we were very young and we were giving scholars an opportunity, which, if I’m being honest with you, I’m absolutely delighted to do,” he said.

“But we’ve watched their goal back and we’re thinking we could have done better.

“At half time I told them I was very disappointed, in the sense that I felt one or two of them didn’t display the attitude I wanted them to.

“At times it might upset them but ultimately I’d like to think I’ve got enough experience to understand those that are and aren’t having a go in a game.”

Mikael Mandron played 77 minutes for Ball’s side after featuring on the bench for the first team since the arrival of new head coach Paolo Di Canio.

And though Ball is delighted with the progress the young Frenchman is making, he feels it’s essential he’s well managed ahead of a big stage in his career.

“As the game wore on I thought Mika looked tired and I thought it was the right thing to bring him off,” he explained.

“It’s fabulous the experience he’s had recently training with the first team, being on the bench and travelling with the squad.

“That’s always going to catch up with him, though, and the one thing I didn’t want to happen was for him to get an injury for ‘x’ amount of weeks and that’s something I was very mindful of, so the decision was made to take him off.

“We have high hopes for Mika but we have to relax a little bit about him and not expect too much too soon.

“The one thing you have with Mika Mandron is an unbelievable attitude with a desire to work and improve; it’s fantastic, top drawer.”

One positive Ball did take from Monday’s defeat was the performance of England U19 international goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who returned from his loan spell with Alfreton Town to feature.

Pickford made a string of fine saves to deny Rovers and keep the score a 1-0 for a long period.

“Jordan Pickford produced one of the best displays from a goalkeeper for a long time,” Ball added.

“Yes, he let the one under him for their second goal but his maturity was good, he stood out, his kicking was outstanding, he was coming for crosses and he was travelling the box to throw it out.

“I think it proves the point that if they’re good enough then we do need to push them into the big wide world.”