Kevin Ball

Ball looks ahead to derby

Coach hails youngsters' chance to play at SoL.

Kevin Ball wants his players to make the most of stepping out at the Stadium of Light next week.

Ball's under-21 squad take on their Newcastle counterparts on Monday (November 19, KO 7pm) in the Barclays U21 Premier League.

Playing at places like the Stadium of Light is part of the players' development because they'll have to get used to playing in those environments and in front of crowds who have expectations

- Kevin Ball

And the former Sunderland captain feels the chance to play at the main stadium is a valuable opportunity for his players, particularly those who are more used to playing on training grounds and smaller venues.

“I am grateful for the decision to put the game on at the Stadium and hopefully there'll be a decent crowd,” said Ball, whose side slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa on Monday despite dominating the majority of the game.

“Some of the players won't have played at the Stadium of Light before and even though it won't be full to the usual levels, it's still a big ask for them.

“Playing at places like the Stadium of Light is part of the players' development because they'll have to get used to playing in those environments and in front of crowds who have expectations.

“I think it's a brilliant chance. I loved playing there when I was a player and I'm sure they will too.”

The local rivals are familiar opponents and last clashed a couple of weeks ago as Peter Beardsley's side went down 4-0 in a friendly at the Academy of Light.

Meanwhile the corresponding league fixture earlier in the season ended in a 2-2 draw, with Connor Wickham scoring both of Sunderland's goals.

But despite that familiarity, Ball says little can be read into past meetings.

“Peter and I speak regularly and we have often arranged friendly games between our teams,” he said.

“Up there [in the league] I felt we did enough to win the game, though both sides might put out different teams this time.

“We'll have to wait and see, but whoever plays I know both ourselves and Newcastle are looking forward to the game.”

Meanwhile the Sunderland coach admits his squad were hurting after the defeat to Villa earlier in the week.

The Black Cats halved an early 2-0 deficit through Alex Gorrin but couldn't find an equaliser in the Midlands as they found Villa keeper Craig Hill inspired form.

Now Ball is hoping the players will channel that frustration into a positive derby result next week.

“It's all about development at this age, but the players still like to win,” he said.

“The lads were really upset after the Villa game, and I thought 'good', but not in a horrible way.

“It's good for them to feel that way; to feel what it's like to lose. Then when the opportunity arises next time they want to put that right.”