Ball relishing cup test

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Coach looks ahead to U21s' cup assignment at Turf Moor.

Kevin Ball is delighted to see knock-out football on the agenda tonight as the under-21’s kick off their challenge for the Barclays U21 Premier League Cup.

The development squad head to Turf Moor this evening (KO 7pm) to take on Burnley looking to secure a place in the fourth round in the competition’s inaugural year.

The trip will be special on a personal level for Ball, who made 90 appearances for the Clarets between July 2000 and April 2002.

But he’s more focused on his players and how they respond to tonight’s cup challenge.

“It’s a new competition and a nice one for the players – once that tie ends they’re either in or out of the competition and it’s good that they have to deal with that,” he explained.

I like the cup competitions because they add a genuine bit of excitement

- Kevin Ball

“I like the cup competitions because they add a genuine bit of excitement.

“From my point of view it will be nice to go back to Burnley – I’ve been back for games and to represent the club, but it’s the first time I’ve been back as a coach for a competitive match.

“It’s a great club and I’m looking forward to going back.”

The development squad last visited Turf Moor last season, running out 2-1 winners in a tight friendly game.

And Ball is expecting a similarly competitive encounter this time around with a place in the next round at stake.

“I would imagine it will be a tight game and we have no idea what kind of side they’ll be putting out,” he said.

“Last time we faced Burnley they played a similar way to how we like to play – passing the ball out from the back.

“The players will have to adjust very quickly which isn’t a bad thing for their development.”

In terms of results, recent games haven’t gone the way we would have liked, but crucially the way we have played has been very good

- Ball looks back

Tonight’s game is only the development squad’s second competitive outing of the month – they were last in action in the Barclays U21 Premier League on November 4, losing 2-1 to West Brom at Eppleton CW.

The gap has been filled with friendlies, the most recent of which saw a 3-1 defeat to Leeds United at the Academy of Light last week.

And Ball says recent results haven’t reflected the quality of his side’s performances which have seen them stick to their footballing philosophy.

“In terms of results, recent games haven’t gone the way we would have liked, but crucially the way we have played has been very good,” he explained.

“We’ve been missing players which creates opportunities for others to come in and there’s been a little bit of transition in the team.

“We lost to Leeds in our last game which was obviously disappointing, but the way we played and the chances created were superb. We’re sticking to our philosophy.

“In those recent games we’ve been close to achieving both – the philosophy and the win.”