Kevin Ball calls for calm in U18 title race

Kevin Ball calls for calm in U18 title race

Sunderland Academy coach Kevin Ball has reminded his team to keep their focus ahead of his side’s trip to Manchester United this weekend.

His Under 18 team travel to Carrington with the prospect of a fourth successive Academy league title in sight but the former Sunderland captain insists that his players are just making sure they take each game as it comes.

Kevin Ball said: “My focus is not really to keep them level-headed – it’s more a case of them doing that themselves.
At this moment in time it’s not really in our hands, in terms of if [Nottingham] Forest win the rest of their games and beat us they win [the league]. That keeps the focus on [the] need to win our games. They know that.”

Nottingham Forest currently sit six points adrift of the Wearsiders but have three games in hand over the leaders and Ball believes that the only way to keep the pressure on Forest is to concentrate on their own games.

“There may be a game that could be pivotal – the Forest game when we play down there – but that counts for nothing if we don’t do stuff in between. If we lose the two in between then the Forest game isn’t important any more.”

Their more immediate worry is Manchester United on Saturday, who are also involved in a title race in their own league. Three points off leaders Everton following last week’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday this game is as vital to them as it is to Sunderland, although both teams have selection concerns ahead of the clash which could give the two teams a more youthful look.

Ball said: “They’ve cancelled our Under 16 game because they haven’t got enough bodies, they’ve got injuries which enables me to play some of our Under 16s in our game as well. So we’ll have two or three playing on Saturday for us as well which is a great experience for them.”

Sunderland will be missing three key players through injury for the game with Lewis King (calf), Craig Lynch (angle ligament), and John Egan all ruled out, although Ball is “hopeful” the latter two will return in the next few weeks. They will also be without top scorer Ryan Noble after the striker completed a loan move to Watford on Thursday.

A win on Saturday would certainly be an important step towards the national academy league final, something which Kevin Ball is targeting as coach.

“What I would like to do one day while Academy coach is win the national final. We’ve got to the Semi-Final, twice we’ve got to the Final and I want to be the coach of a team that wins it.”

About the Author