Stewart Donald once again joined us on the Roker Rapport Podcast earlier in the week, and while he was with us he discussed Kevin Ball’s future with the club after speaking on previous shows about how having him in an ambassadorial role was underutilising his abilities.
The plan for Ball is for the club legend to be the right-hand man of new Academy manager Paul Reid, with his main task to raise the standards that have slipped at all levels at the Academy of Light.
I’m going to see him again, we’re going to ask him to take a real active role in getting the standards in the academy spot on. He’s going to get heavily involved in the academy. I like Kevin, I like his standards and he’s a good influence. He sets high standards, we need higher standards and he has definitely been under-utilised. We are going to work him hard.
Kevin needs to sit with Paul Reid and be Paul’s right-hand man. The two of them are going to have to dove-tail to get those standards up.
After explaining what his role will be, Donald went on to go into detail about how those standards have slipped at the academy, with relegation to League One meaning poor attitudes in first team had bled through to the youth levels of the club.
Some of the first team attitude of thinking League One is below them has fed through to the academy. We’ve had academy kids say we are not coming back into training this year. So there’s a bit of an attitude that has crept in there and under Kevin Ball that didn’t happen.
We’ve got to get them [kids] connected to this football club, connected to the manager, connected to the fans rather than perceiving it as someone where they just to to play football, so when other opportunities come along, they actually feel part of something.
When they go out and are moaning about the pitches or their dinner, you think ‘you are at Sunderland football club at 13, 14, 15-years old, let’s be proud of that, let’s try and get into the first team of this football club’, let’s not say ‘we’re too good to come back training with Sunderland’. Who the hell do they think they are?
Attitude problems are not the only issue at the academy however, with clubs trying to take advantage of our relegation to League One by swooping for our most promising talents.
Already this summer we’ve lost Sam Greenwood to Arsenal and with the likes of Liverpool sniffing around Luca Stephenson, Donald bemoaned the rules that say the club can’t protect itself from it’s promising players being poached.
The frustrating thing for me is that there’s a lot of big teams sniffing around our young lads, from age 12-15. We want to keep all of those.
The academy costs £1-2m to look after, we want to be Category 1 but until the lads get to 17 you can’t protect yourselves with contracts. You get minimal compensation but for the academy to run you need to get four lads compensated each year and then all that time and efforts goes in but other clubs benefit. We need to fight to keep the lads until they are 17.
As well as trying to keep the better talents in our academy, the club are hoping to do to other clubs what they have been trying to do to us. Namely, signing their promising youngsters with Reid already hoping to have a big enough budget to go out and sign some prospects.
The academy manager [Paul Reid] has asked how much of these funds that I’ve generated for this football club are you giving me to invest in youngsters?
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