News round-up (20/03/06)...
...Kevin Ball pulled no punches as he told his players what us fans have known all season, that they're not good enough.
'I didn't enjoy some of the performances I saw, collectively or individually and I've been around them and told them what the requirements are of a team that I manage.'
It is no surprise to Sunderland supporters that Ball expects above all that his players give him 110%, and the caretaker manager was disappointed not to see that on Saturday,
'I know that confidence is in short supply and I know that we had a couple of injuries in Julio Arca and Stephen Elliott which deprived us of the qualities they bring to the side.
'But their absence is a chance for the team that does go out there to show what it can do – to grab that opportunity with both hands – but that didn't happen.
'You've got to roll your sleeves up and push and push and push to get something. If you retreat inside yourselves, then you've got no chance.'
Yet Ball still feels that his players are capable of much more than just trying hard, maintaining that there is some quality in this side. A view that is not necessarily backed up with hard facts.
'What disappoints me is that there are players that are good quality players here – they have to be, otherwise they wouldn't be at our club – and there are plenty of players at Sunderland who have the ability to be top quality players.
'But they have to improve on certain aspects of their game and I've let them know that. Having told them, I now expect them to show that they will take that on board and look to show that they are willing and able to improve.'
...Sheffield United are being linked with a summer swoop for club captain Gary Breen, who is set to quit Wearside this summer.
Breen was originally quite a favourite amonst Sunderland fans when he became one of Mick McCarthy's first signings, his performances regularly commanding at the heart of the defence.
However since then his performances, especially this season in the top flight, have been below par and overall his attitude, considering his position as captain, has not been to the fans' liking.
It is fair to say there won't be many tears shed on Wearside once he does leave. Breen is reportedly looking to join another top flight club, and Blades boss Neil Warnock is understood to be interested in bringing the experienced defender to Bramall Lane should they secure promotion to the Premiership.
Ask many Sunderland fans however to see what they think about Breen's capability of playing another year in the top division.
...One player we will want at the Stadium of Light next season is local lad Grant Leadbitter. Since breaking into the side Leadbitter has made some promising performances, often outshining the likes of Miller and Whitehead in midfield. He has already done enough to suggest that he could well be an important player for Sunderland next season. If he stays.
His agent, Ian Elliot has done exactly what all fans of football hate them for, and touted him for a move, or a bigger contract.
Elliot said, 'We've had an initial meeting with representatives from Sunderland, but we are still way apart with our valuation of Grant Leadbitter as a player,' Elliot said.
'There is a lot of interest in Grant from other clubs at the moment, some of them in the Premiership. The lad is Sunderland through and through, he loves the club and wants to stay if a deal can be done.
'But things are further complicated by the possible scenario where Grant signs a long-term contract then a manager comes in this summer who simply doesn't fancy him. The fact is we have to weigh up his options in the summer and we have some way to go with Sunderland yet.'
While his performances have been promising, quite how any player from this season's team can have the audacity to suggest touting a move elsewhere or barganing for a bigger contract is beyond me.
If it were up to me i'd fine them all a year's salary and refund all season ticket holders, me included!