Sunderland V Liverpool at Stadium of Light : Match Preview

29 September 2013 09:11
Sunderland V Liverpool - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Ball focused on task in hand

Sunderland interim head coach Kevin Ball would rather not have landed his dream job in the way he has.

The 48-year-old may not remain in the post for much longer than the club's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool on Sunday, with owner Ellis Short engaged in the process of identifying a successor to the sacked Paolo Di Canio.

Ball would dearly love to be that man, but in the shorter term, he will concentrate on the task of preparing the team for as long as it takes to appoint a replacement, just as he did back in 2006 after taking over the reins on a caretaker basis from Mick McCarthy.

Asked what it meant to him to be in charge of the club for which he played with such distinction, the Black Cats' senior professional development coach said: "It's funny.

"The situation the last time and the situation this time - in an ideal world, you wouldn't want either of them to have happened.

"You would want the role, but in a different situation and different circumstances.

"How did I feel when I took the training? Fine, because I am currently doing a very similar thing with another group of players who are not very much younger than some of these.

"The day-to-day stuff, we are already doing, so it dovetails quite nicely with that.

"Speaking to the media, it's not like I haven't done it before. It's not something that I couldn't do and I thoroughly enjoy doing it."

Ball was thrown in at the deep end when he was asked to take training on Monday morning and, along with academy assistant Robbie Stockdale, select and prepare the team for Tuesday night's Capital One Cup third-round tie against Peterborough.

He freely admits his week has been hectic ever since, but it is one he has thoroughly enjoyed.

"It is a busy week, but you do enjoy it," Ball said. "There are always going to be bits you think are a pain in the backside, but that's life, isn't it?

"But you try to enjoy it. I enjoy my football anyway, I enjoy my coaching, I enjoy doing what I do in terms of the (under-) 21s, so it's not an illogical step.

"It's not like I have come from the wilderness and, all of a sudden, someone has brought me back in. I am doing a job very similar to that anyhow, so it wasn't such a massive transition."

Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher will be sidelined for up to six weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered at West Brom last weekend.

Defender John O'Shea, who came off with a niggle during Tuesday night's 2-0 Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough, is expected to be fit and midfielder Lee Cattermole could also figure after coming through that game unscathed, while full-back Phil Bardsley is close to returning from a broken bone in his foot.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is not worried about his side's second-half form this season.

The Reds have not scored after half-time in the Barclays Premier League since May 12 at Fulham, and that has contributed to them dropping four points in their last two matches - against Swansea and Southampton.

And, while Rodgers cannot explain why they have not scored any later than the 37th minute, he is not reading anything into the statistic.

"It is well documented we haven't scored a goal (in the second half) and sometimes that trend surprises you when you hear that," he said.

"Probably in some of the games in the second half we have sat a bit deeper and have seen out the results, but Swansea we didn't.

"It doesn't concern me. It is something we will work on.

"As the game (the 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United) went on the other night, I thought we were going to get that goal, but I can't say I'm overly concerned."

Liverpool now face Sunderland, a team rebounding from the sacking of Di Canio, at the Stadium of Light.

"There is an upturn you normally find when a manager comes in," he said.

"It is unfortunate Paolo lost his job. They had a victory in the week and obviously Kevin Ball will go into the game looking for the players to put on a performance again.

"We know the capabilities of Sunderland and I am sure they will come out fighting for a result.

"For us, in order to continue climbing, we are determined to go and win."

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger is set to return for the trip after being left out of the midweek against Manchester United because of a side strain.

Rodgers has to decide whether to continue with the three centre-halves he fielded at Old Trafford as right-back Glen Johnson (ankle) is still out injured.

Midfielder Joe Allen (hamstring) is absent while Philippe Coutinho is still recovering from a shoulder operation.

Source: PA