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Sunderland can recover from Fletcher blow says Ball
EVEN after hearing that £12m striker Steven Fletcher will miss the whole of October through injury, caretaker boss Kevin Ball is convinced Sunderland will emerge from the next week with positive news.
It was confirmed yesterday that last season’s leading goalscorer, Fletcher, will be out for up to six weeks with a dislocated shoulder, meaning he is likely to be sidelined for the derby with Newcastle United on October 27.
It is hardly the development Sunderland needed after a worrying start to the new campaign, which cost Paolo Di Canio his job after failing to win any of his five Premier League games this season.
But Ball, who was initially told his temporary stint in charge will only last until tomorrow night, is satisfied that the group of players he has under him can deliver against Liverpool and then Manchester United six days later.
“I know this run of games will be very tough, not just these coming up but every game,” said Ball. “The challenge is not sometimes the result it's the performance you put in.
“If you roll over and feel like it doesn't matter, how does that bode for the future. If you do everything you can, even if you've lost 3-0, if they were just better than you, then to a degree you'd accept that.
"I wouldn't accept a 3-0 defeat, let's not bother our backsides. It's in the performance not necessary always in the result.”
When Sunderland come up against Liverpool tomorrow afternoon they will face a player who worked under Ball in the club’s academy.
Jordan Henderson was nurtured through the ranks by Sunderland’s caretaker boss before breaking on to the first team stage under Steve Bruce. After 72 league appearances, Liverpool paid £20m to take him to Anfield in 2011.
"Any player that makes it, that extra is down to them and they're the ones that push themselves relentlessly,” said Ball. “I did a presentation with the U21s using Jordan as an example not long ago, of his love of football driving him on all the time and obviously this club as well.
"He's moved on but his genuine love of football drove him on and he's never let any obstacle get in his way. He's got out and done extra practice to make him better and I know he still does that at Liverpool because I've spoken to him and the people there. It's that inner drive he's got and that will carry on.”
Henderson will not be the only Sunderland old-boy on show at the Stadium of Light. It will be the first time Simon Mignolet has returned to Wearside since his £12m switch to Liverpool in the summer.
“I’m really looking forward to going back,” he said. “There are a lot of people who I still know from my time there so I am looking forward to seeing them again and have a catch up.
“I was there three years so I know a lot of people and I never like to see them struggling. They were unlucky at the start of the season so hopefully they can turn it around – but only after Sunday.”
Mignolet knows things will have changed following Di Canio’s departure, but he said: “Being a goalkeeper I spent 95 per cent of the time with the goalkeeping coach. When it came to matchday I had quite a good relationship with him.
“In fact up until now I’ve had quite a good relationship with every manager I’ve played under. So hopefully, touch wood, we can keep it that way.”
Mignolet will be happy to have Luis Suarez on his side at the Stadium of Light today. He remembers the day in March 2011 when Suarez’s brilliance earned him an individual goal which secured a 2-0 win over Sunderland.
Mignolet said: “Everyone knows the quality he has and it is what we need for Liverpool. Not only on matchdays but every single day in training.
“I see it every single day in training when I’m one v one with him and you see what he can do, so he will improve me as a goalkeeper as well.
“We know there’s a lot more to come from him and I’m sure he will score goals and win games for Liverpool again.”
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