Martin O'Neill seems to be making plans to revamp his backroom staff, with Sunderland legend Kevin Ball apparently earmarked for a greater involvement with first team duties.
Ball has been a hugely deserving coaching stalwart at the Academy of Light over the last decade, and was recently promoted to fill the position in charge of the reserve squad that was vacated by Keith Bertschin's departure to Hull.
But it seems that new role may be termporary, or at least merely form part of his duties moving forward.
O'Neill told the Sunderland Echo today;
Kevin was always going to be stepping up with the way the academy system is changing and, at some stage or another, I’d like Kevin to get some sort of involvement with the first-team. We’ll deal with that accordingly further down the line.
I’ve said before that my own view is that Niall Quinn is Mr Sunderland. I’d say Kevin Ball wouldn’t be far behind. Some supporters might think he’s even ahead. He’s great here, so enthusiastic and wants to do well.
Ball will be joined at the Academy of Light by former Leicester winger Steve Guppy, who had been providing some one-on-one tuition to players on a freelance basis last term, as O'Neill went on to add;
I’m looking to bring in Steve Guppy on a full-time basis. I want him to continue his individual work, particularly with the younger players here. That’s a really important step for us. He’s got good experience for one I consider relatively young, and I want to develop him as a coach as much as anything else.
Although O'Neill is obviously eyeing up changes to his backroom staff, he won't be considering applicants for the Assistant Manager position. Either John Robertson will take up the open invitation to resume his role as O'Neill's right-hand man or it will be left vacant.
Robertson has been unable to join O'Neill on Wearside so far due to 'personal circumstances', but the Sunderland boss has stated that things could change on that front whilst reiterating he has "no intention of appointing anyone as an assistant if it`s not John".
So all change, it seems, but changes that have to be expected sooner rather than later whenever a new manager comes into a club. The news that O'Neill recognises Kevin Ball as such an important part of the club is especially good to hear, however.
It will be interesting to see just how far through the coaching ranks Ball can progress at Sunderland, or indeed how far he even wants to. But to the vast majority of fans Ball is simply part of the very fabric of the club and the Academy of Light - with a Sunderland badge upon his chest - is just where he belongs.