Ball pleased with Euro trip

by Ashley Houghton

Coach delighted with pre-season progress.

Sunderland development squad coach Kevin Ball was delighted with the progress made in the under-21s' pre-season tour of Holland and Germany last week.

Ball watched on as the youngsters were narrowly beaten by Borussia Monchengladbach’s under-23 side before a win over RKSV Leonidas completed the tour.

And Ball, who made 388 first-team appearances for the Black Cats, was pleased to see his squad bond both on and off the field.

“I thought it was a really good pre-season tour,” Ball said. “To be honest it was one of those where we said we could spend another couple of days here had we had another game, the lads enjoyed it that much.

“It was a well-organised trip and I was really pleased with how the lads applied themselves in both games we played as well as the training sessions we had.

“In the final game [against RKSV Leonidas] we were excellent, the movement was really good, we worked really hard and coped with the physical way in which they played against us as a men’s team.”

The development squad now travel to Harrogate on Wednesday evening before they welcome Bolton Wanderers for the first game of the Barclays U21 Premier League on Monday.

And Ball has been pleased with how his squad has gelled over the pre-season period, citing an improved maturity as an extra positive.

“I’ve worked with the younger groups in the past before and been on a tour to California with some of them so it wasn’t a case of getting to know them – it was more seeing how they’ve matured,” he added.

“And, I have to say, I was really impressed with how they handled the tour and blended in with the other lads."

One member of the development squad that Ball has lost is goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has joined League Two side Burton Albion on loan.

And Ball believes the move to the Brewers is great for the Washington-born stopper who spent the end of last season in the Conference Premier with Alfreton Town.

“Jordan came to Monchengladbach with us but then got the call to say a move had been arranged for him to go to Burton,” Ball continued.

“I think it’s a great move for him because it’s first-team football with a purpose where points make prizes and lads are playing for their livelihoods.

“It’s a big opportunity for him and one he fully deserves because he works very hard and one that we keep our eyes on because he’s a very, very good goalkeeper who has the potential to do really well.”