Kevin Ball

Ball expecting competitive game

by Stuart Vose

Under-21 boss previews derby clash.

Kevin Ball is expecting a competitive encounter when Newcastle and Sunderland’s under-21 sides meet on Tyneside tonight.

Sunderland will play their third game of the new Barclays U21 Premier League season and face a Magpies outfit who sit second in the division.

“These are always competitive games and the players always look to see when they are playing Newcastle,” Ball told

“The nice thing, and rightly so, is that this game is being played in the main stadium.

“It’s been a long few weeks for us with only one league game but as this game got closer you could see the players really looking forward to it.

“I went across to this fixture last year when we had a very young team out, including some youth team players.

“It was a good game, really lively, and from our point of view the players acquitted themselves really well on the night.”

Ball is expected to field a strong side tonight with the likes of Louis Saha, David Vaughan and Matt Kilgallon named in the squad.

The league’s rules allow managers to name up to three overage outfield players for league fixtures and Martin O’Neill has opted to exercise this option.

“It’s a great chance for those senior players who haven’t had very much game time,” Ball added.

“I think the manager always has to have scope to drop players down if he so wishes. This is a good opportunity for him to do that.”