By Glen Robertson
Sunderland legend Kevin Ball is hoping the Mackems of Newton Aycliffe will be out in force at Moore Lane Park on Friday night as the Newtonians welcome the Wearsiders.
The Premier League club’s new senior development coach will take charge of his first game since his promotion at the home of Allan Oliver’s Aycliffe side.
And the former Black Cats captain hopes the local Sunderland fans grasp the opportunity to see their club on their doorstep for the first-ever time.
In an exclusive interview with Aycliffe Today, Ball said: “I’ve visited the Aycliffe supporters’ branch in the past and attended dinners there with them and they’re very supportive and very passionate people, and for us to come and play in their back yard is a big deal.
“They’ll be looking forward to supporting us so I’d like to think there’d be a few hundred down and from that point of view it would be a good test for our players.
“Some of the younger ones wouldn’t have played in front of a crowd before and they have to learn how to deal with that, so if the crowd’s quite close and shouting at the players, whether it’s positive or negative depending on who they support, then so be it. The players have got to learn how to deal with that.”
It will be the first time that the Black Cats will have faced Newton Aycliffe and, while it is a massive occasion for the town, it is also a vital part of Sunderland’s pre-season preparations.
“When the opportunity comes up to play these games, we can’t always accommodate people, but this one fell nicely for both teams and it will become an important part of our pre-season,” said Ball.
“I’ve been to the town a few times, played at the golf club down there and I love it. It’s a local area and one we really want to support.
“One of the reasons we like to accommodate local teams and send a team down is because we are aware that we have a strong contingency of supporters in Aycliffe and we hope they’re all going to be there on Friday night to support us.”
Newton Wycliffe v Sunderland XI, Friday 20th July (7.30pm) – admission £5 adults and £3 concessions (Over-65s and Under-16s).