By Glen Robertson
Sunderland legend and new senior development coach Kevin Ball is viewing Friday’s game at Moore Lane Park as an important part of his players’ pre-season commitments.
The former Sunderland captain will be taking charge of his first game under his new role, after being promoted from his role as under-18s coach, a role now fulfilled by former Darlington manager Craig Liddle.
Ball views Friday as a vital workout for his young side, but is also targeting victory as the Black Cats face Newton Aycliffe for the first-ever time.
Ball told Aycliffe Today: “The way we look at it is in terms of do we want to win the game? Most definitely. And we expect Aycliffe to do the same.
“Our main priority in pre-season is the conditioning of the players, getting our tactical and technical awareness back to how we like it. Game time is vitally important and we’ll be looking to build them up to 60, 70 minutes in this game, and it is an ideal opportunity for all of our players to get time on the pitch.”
It is Ball’s first official game in his new position, and he told Aycliffe Today that it is a role that really excites him.
He said: “Because of the new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) rules, the terminology of a lot of coaching staff has changed. I’ve moved up from my role as under 18s coach to technically to being the reserve team manager, but the title of that is now senior development coach, and it is great.
“It means I’m taking on now more 18-21 year-olds, as well as first-team players dropping down if the manager wishes for them to play in the reserves, as you’re allowed three over-aged players, so there is that opportunity as well.
“If we have to arrange any other games on top of our league programme, that’s my responsibility, and if the manager wants players to play in that, I’ll liaise with him.
“It’s a role with more senior players, but I love doing my role with the youth team and it doesn’t mean I’m going to lose touch with them because I won’t, it just means I now take the next bracket up.”
● Aycliffe’s game against a Sunderland XI tonight kicks off at 7.30pm, with admission £5 adults and £3 concessions. Fans are strongly urged to arrive in plenty of time to avoid lengthy queues.