Nyron, Kevin and Alan

Salut! Sunderland is happy to congratulate Nyron Nosworthy on his “player of the season” award from fans voting on the official club website*.

Last season, I was among those who questioned the scale of our ambition when all the way from Gillingham, NN was introduced as one of Mick McCarthy’s signings for the ill-fated return to the Premiership.

He was occasionally useful going forward but always seemed awkward on the ball and crossed appallingly. The transformation has been astounding. Whenever I have seen him this season, he has been rock solid.

On the flank, he embarked on runs that threatened to inflict – and often inflicted – real damage on the opposition. And in the centre, he has been an utterly key figure in our unbeaten run.

He has quite rightly established himself as a great crowd pleaser. And his attitude and commitment, plus an ability to overcome question marks on skill with sheer graft and courage, remind me of another: Kevin Ball.

Speaking of Ball, I should pass on one embarrassing – for me – anecdote on the occasion of the sad passing of his part-namesake Alan, a fine servant of the game at all levels.

It was the 25th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup win, and I was there at a press photoshoot in London to meet the squad.

All of those I managed to speak to made some impression on me. But Ball I will never forget.

With spectacular ignorance, I asked him when he was going to curb the excesses of his hard-as-nails son and stop him being booked or sent off.

Which son, came the inevitable reply. I had been misled – by a programme reference or terrace talk, or at least that’s my excuse – into think Kevin was Alan’s lad.

Before I needed to find a suitable corner to creep into, Alan Ball came up with some sort of light-hearted reassurance, his way of saying “never mind, you plonker” to ease my shame. Thanks, Alan and RIP.

* And congrats too to the runners-up Dean Whitehead and Carlos Edwards, and youn player of the season Jonny Evans.

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