Kevin Ball

Ball on U21s' pre-season

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Ball pleased with preparations ahead of new campaign.

Sunderland’s senior professional development coach, Kevin Ball, says he has been delighted with the manner in which the development squad have applied themselves to pre-season training.

The under-21 side returned to training last week and Ball, who made 388 appearances for the Black Cats, has praised the attitude of his group ahead of their opening round of friendlies this week.

“The first two days was just getting them acclimatised especially with the nice weather we’re having,” Ball said.

“We’ve just been getting them used to having the ball back at their feet again, loads of touches on the ball and then on the Friday we did the testing.

“It’s been a slow gradual build-up of conditioning work, starting to bring the balls into play, culminating in having some extensive small-sided games. I have to say the quality of the football was very, very good."

Ball has also been quick to praise the work done by the majority of the development squad over the summer which has seen them come back in fine shape.

Louis Laing, John Egan, Jordan Watson and Connor Oliver all missed the majority of last season through injury and Ball told safc.com that the work ethic of those players is refreshing for the squad.

“I’ve been really impressed with the players – Louis Laing for example – he’s worked very hard all over the summer because he had a long period of time out injured last year and he’s flying at the moment,” he explained.

“He needs a ball at his feet because he hasn’t had that for a long time - it’s mix-and-match with different people needing different things, but I have to say I’ve been very impressed with them.

“There was a period of time where some of the players would either be out on loan or playing with us but those players - players who we feel have got a great chance if they work hard at their game - were out injured, unfortunately.

“Now they’re starting come back and it’s nice to see them back; it enhances the group and raises the quality in the group as well.

“John Egan and Jordan Watson are both itching to get back after being out for a long time and I’d imagine it’s quite tough for them because they’re in the last stages of their rehab; they see the lads out running around and they’ll be thinking 'I want to be out there with them'.”