Hong Kong

Seven up for youngsters in Hong Kong

by Stuart Vose

Ball hoping to improve on last season's semi-final finish in Soccer Sevens.

Coach Kevin Ball is pleased to be able to take Sunderland’s U21s back to Hong Kong for the Soccer Sevens tournament next month.

The former Sunderland captain will make his third trip to the prestigious event, with the young Black Cats set to return for a fourth year.

The tournament will kick off on May 23 and will run alongside a Masters competition.

“It’s nice to be invited back again,” Ball said. “This is a prestigious tournament and not many sides are asked to participate.

“We thoroughly enjoy going there and the tournament is a great experience. For some of the players it’s a once in a lifetime thing.

“It’s a good standard and everything about the competition is great, from the football to how we are looked after and the organisation.”

Meanwhile Ball is determined to make further progress last year having seen the youngsters reach the last four of the competition in 2013.

The Black Cats suffered a narrow defeat to eventual champions Leicester in the semi-finals after successfully navigating the group stage.

The seven-a-side format means a smaller squad will head to the Far East and Ball says the staff will give careful consideration to the travelling party.

“We want to go out there and give ourselves the best chance to do well,” he explained.

“Having got to the semi-final last year we’d like to go a step further.

“When the time’s right we will sit down as a staff and go through who we feel should go and if there’s a reason people shouldn’t go.

“For example, we didn’t take Mika [Mandron] last year because it had been a tough season for him, but this year he will want to go.”