Colin Randall writes: Just as our Kevin Ball deserves a free season ticket for life at the Stadium of Light, their – Birmingham City’s – Kevin Ball* has earned one to Salut! Sunderland after all his visit to this illustrious series. But think about it: who would you turn to, if looking for candidates, other than someone bearing that name? So Kev’s back for the much-copied Who are You? (I always imagine our confreres at other sites making a painstaking note of all our interviewees before flattering us by imitation). Enough of that: from deepest Devon, the Bluenose version of Kev answers out questions once again …
Salut! Sunderland: rotten season so far for both of us. Maybe we each need a player like your namesake, Kevin Ball, no frills but all heart and endless commitment, to rally the troops We’re aware of our failings; describe yours…
Kevin Ball: sounds like a brilliant description of me!
Should you have expected more with Steve Cotterill in charges and rich Hong Kong owners despite the turbulence of recent seasons?
Well it’s early days for him. What I can’t understand is the abject performances under Redknapp. I just don’t get it. More in the next section. Cotterill is a no nonsense type who I think knows how to get results. The thing is each week that goes by without one, the more pressure is laid on him. I’m hopeful he will keep us up.
Like us, you’ve endured a stream of managerial changes. Who were the hits and misses for you and did Lee Clark deserve more time?
Lee Clark was a nice guy. I met him and he was genuinely passionate about the game. The problem was, he was totally out of his depth. However he will be remembered for that amazing emotional reaction at the end of the Bolton game after we stayed up. Zola has only ever performed once as a manager and that was for one season. We didn’t have the players to play the way he wanted, and he should have gone weeks before he did. Redknapp, as I said before, is the odd one. Yes he had been out of the game for a while, but with his knowledge / experience he should have done better. The majority of the players he bought are good players, but they just didn’t perform under him. I do wonder what was happening.
The era of Trevor Francis must seem a distant dream, though the fallow years were interrupted by the 2011 League Cup final (beating Arsenal). What would it take to get the club back into the top flight and to stay there?
In this division, the one thing is consistency to be honest, oh and goals, the two things are consistency and goals – and the defenders not giving the ball away willy nilly. So the THREE things are… actually there are many others too. Do you know, I’m going to duck this question – we just need to stay up first! Our squad isn’t that bad and I think if we can get a bit of momentum we should be ok.
Looking at your squad, our old friend Craig Gardner’s name leaps out. Used to bang in some good goals and, like Ball, bags of passion. Any good for you?
He’s passed his best now and is at most a 15 mins to go sub. Was a great player in his time though.
Otherwise, it’s the Premier League on-loan players who catch the eye. Who among them or elsewhere in the squad give hope that better times may be around the corner?
Boga looks like he will be a key player. Also Adams and Vassell were starting to look a good partnership when they both got injured. Vass looks like he is out for the season. Stockdale has played well in goal since he came back and I like Ndoye, Dean and Kieftenbeld. So as I said, we have some decent players they just need to operate as a team.
Remind us of your highlights as a Birmingham fan – and by all means wallow in Wembley nostalgia
Ha ha, well I have two Wembley victories that I was at. The 1991 Leyland Daf final 3-2 against Tranmere. John Gale scored the winner with an overhead kick with a few minutes to go. The other of course the 2011 Carling Cup final. This is without doubt, my greatest day supporting the Blues since 1973. The fact we were expected to just be the other team while Arsenal started a trophy winning spree that wet February Sunday – was a surprise to most! Oh and Arsenal didn’t win the other three either!
Seriously? How much can I write? I often answer the question do you support Blues – yes and have done through thin and thin. Loads of relegation, being pipped at the last minute in semi finals watching the other lot over Witton way be higher than us most of the time – but you know what, I wouldn’t change it. It’s easy to support clubs like Arsenal, Utd etc. The pain and suffering they go through is being knocked out of the Champions League – boo hoo! We know real pain and suffering. And you know what, the pearls that come occasionally such as the cup win – are even more enjoyable.
Best players you seen in Birningham blue?
I go back to the Trevor Francis, Latchford and Kenny Burns days. All great players. We have had a number of them over the years. The side Jim Smith had were great, the side that Barry Fry had in the early 90’s were really entertaining too. Players like Forssell, Savage (yes really) and others including the 2 centre backs of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann in the Premier League days. Many players who made an impression over the years.
And the real duds?
Too many to mention, but Ferdinand Coley always gets mentioned, poor bloke.
Is there anyone in Sunderland’s squad you’d willingly take at St Andrew’s?
Err not sure to be honest. Probably not at the moment!
Other thoughts on SAFC – the club, the fans, Chris Coleman? Did you see our decline coming on quite the scale we’ve experienced?
I have always thought of Sunderland as a NE Blues. Proper fans, proper club etc. Your neighbours are like ours, illusions of grandeur. Chris Coleman has a lot of experience. I think in our relative positions, Cotterill and Coleman are the type of managers you need.
Hand on heart, where will our two clubs finish this season?
I think we’ll both stay up actually. (Just!)
Your assessment of the quality of play and refereeing in the Championship?
DON’T get me started on this. Simply woeful, and I’ll leave it there!
The Niasse question: are you happy the authorities are finally taking diving seriously, with retrospective punishment, or is more to be done?
That’s a great question. They haven’t addressed it, and actually wouldn’t address it if it hadn’t been for TV coverage of sheer blatant cheating. I have seen us do it in the past, and I don’t like it. It should be a red card not a yellow for simulation and a big fine. That would soon sort it out.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
No I won’t, too far for me from Devon I’m afraid. 1-1 is my prediction.
* Kev on Kev: I am a dad of four, been in Devon since the late 70s. I don’t get to many games these days, but obviously follow via media. I’m a training consultant and involved in local politics as a councillor. I’ve attached an image of me with Nikola Zigic.
Interview: Colin Randall