Coach's challenge for budding striker.
Kevin Ball got an early glimpse of Mikael Mandron’s positive attitude when helping to run the rule over the youngster early in his fledgling Sunderland career.
Ball, who is senior professional development coach within the Academy, worked with the Frenchman in his previous role as youth team coach.
Mandron will turn professional this summer and has already forced his way into the senior set-up, making two substitute appearances towards the end of the 2012-13 season.
He initially arrived on trial before signing a two-year apprenticeship prior to the start of the 2011-12 campaign.
All Ball says the youngster’s hunger to learn was apparent from the off.
“Everybody within the Academy has had an influence on where Mika is and what he has achieved but Mika’s influence on Mika is his attitude,” Ball explained.
“Ged [McNamee, Academy manager] brought him to me as an under-16 to train with us - I thought there was something there but he was very gangly, very loose, not the strongest.
“Then I did some extra work with him in the afternoon. He hit one with his left foot and I thought ‘yeah, that’s good’.”
“He hit one with his right and it was poor but then he continued to hit them with the same foot, which I thought was brilliant.
“How many lads would simply continue hitting them with their strong foot after a bad one on their weak foot?
“He was conscientious about what he was doing and coming into a big Academy like this away from home was a big ask for him.”
After a season coaching Mandron at youth level, Ball came across his former charge again in 2012-13 when the striker was promoted to the under-21 side.
And he says the promising youngster must retain his focus and not get carried away or lose his balance of talent and level-headedness.
“There would have been times last year when Mika hated me because I was pushing him and pushing him but to give him credit he dug in, and now he’s getting part reward for his efforts,” Ball said.
“One thing Mika will be aware of is that it’s just a very small part at the moment, there’s still a long way to go for him.
“And his long-term aim has to be to play regularly in our first team – he’s had a sniff of that and he’s thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I watched training recently and he did very, very well.”
He added: “If you’ve got talent and a good attitude then you’re laughing, but if you’ve got talent and a bad attitude you’ll only go so far.
“I say to all the lads that they’ve got the talent, but have they got the attitude day in day out, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out?”