Happy days are here again ... but Kevin’s still got a grip on discipline at Sunderland

Kevin Ball , his first gane in charge after the sacking of Paolo Di Canio.
Kevin Ball , his first gane in charge after the sacking of Paolo Di Canio.
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THERE ARE a few more smiles in the corridors of the Academy of Light and a few more cups of Nescafe being consumed in the canteen.

But this is no holiday camp.

Given the discipline of the Paolo Di Canio regime and the Italian’s iron-fisted rule at Sunderland’s training ground, some supporters may have feared a free-for-all after his sacking last weekend.

Sunderland have a caretaker who is the furthest thing from a walkover though.

Discipline is a concept which goes hand-in-hand with Kevin Ball.

As Black Cats skipper, Ball was the leader in trenches who ensured anyone that stepped out of line knew about it.

Even now, more than a decade after he last pulled on a Sunderland shirt, his former team-mates have spoken in reverential tones about Ball in the press this week.

Those principles have continued during his coaching career.

Wander around Sunderland’s training facility and you will find those players who have come under Ball stewardship, ever-willing to hold a door open.

Speak to Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback too - the two prize graduates from Ball’s old Under-18 side - and they are among the most grounded footballers you could wish to meet.

Ball’s standards even extend to journalists.

When Ball arrived for his press conference yesterday afternoon, he shook the hand of every reporter in the room before reminding them they would be fined if they were ever late. Fortunately no-one received the £5 penalty.

Given that set of standards, the Sunderland caretaker boss bristles at the suggestion that there is a more relaxed environment at the academy, following Di Canio’s removal from power.

“Anyone who knows me, wouldn’t think I’d relax it,” he told the Echo,

“My levels of expectations and standards are high, but they are what I’d class as reasonable as well.

“In time, people are going to do something they’re not supposed to and I understand that. If that’s the case, they’ll be treated accordingly.

“The standards we ask them to adhere to are acceptable and what they agree to.

“If someone steps out of line, they know what’s going to happen.

“There might have been one or two little things where you think ‘I’ll accept that, but I won’t accept that’. There’s an agreement there.

“If a player is late out for training, I’ll say it to him: ‘Do you know what time it is? It’s supposed to be 10am and it’s two minutes past. Ten o’clock is ten o’clock out here.’

“If it continually happens, I do something about it.”

Ball also insists that it would be wrong of him to immediately tear up the rule book from Di Canio’s tenure.

While the development coach insists it is now his choice whether he alters aspects of Sunderlad’s regime while he is in temporary charge, there is no sense of lambasting Di Canio’s standards.

The Under-21 coach added: “You’ve got to respect the previous regime for what they felt was right.

“I wouldn’t say it was wrong. Paolo with us was great, we’d speak and go along and talk with him.

“How they chose to do things was their way.

“Irrespective of what we all think, to judge it would be unfair.

“One, we weren’t party to it, so it’s difficult to understand it, and two, it’s their choice.

“If there’s one or two things that I want to adjust, then that’s my prerogative.

“I’m not going to say ‘ you couldn’t have that, but now you can have what you want’.

“There’s got to be an acceptable line.

“It might be that I can see why he did that, but is it going to massively affect the players if I do it differently and they are happier?

“It’s me doing it how I feel is right.

“That’s my prerogative now and that’s with the utmost respect to the previous regime because they had their choice too.”