Interview: Jody Craddock talks about Kevin Ball

Jody Craddock tells Chief sports writer Mark Douglas how Sunderland could do worse than give former team-mate Kevin Ball the manager's job

Retired footballer Jody Craddock with one of his oil paintings
Retired footballer Jody Craddock with one of his oil paintings

Sunderland have gone from the Emperor’s new clothes to a red and white tuxedo.

While Paolo Di Canio’s self-proclaimed “revolution” turned out to be all mouth and no trousers, Kevin Ball has years of experience to back up his claims to have the best interests of the Black Cats at heart.

According to former team-mate Jody Craddock, Sunderland could do much worse than giving Ball the job - at least until the end of the season.

Craddock remains a firm favourite among Sunderland fans for the excellent service he gave the club during six fantastic years at the Stadium of Light and admits to concern at the way events have transpired on Wearside this season.

Now retired and embarking on a testimonial year which will raise money for cancer charities and a Birmingham Hospital, Craddock is looking to raise awareness of the good causes which will benefit from 12 months of events in his name - but first he wants to push a sporting cause that is quite close to his heart.

Craddock said: “I think Bally would be a great fit for Sunderland.

“Believe me, he is Sunderland through and through - I remember an end-of-year do when he turned up in a red-and-white-striped tuxedo.

“The club meant so much to him and that kind of enthusiasm is infectious.

Kevin Ball, Sunderland's caretaker manager
Kevin Ball, Sunderland's caretaker manager
 

“Sometimes you do need someone who really understands the football club when things are not going well and they need to be turned around.

“Believe me, there is no one in professional football who cares as much about that club as Kevin Ball.

“It sounds as if it is just for one or two matches but his training will be good, he will make sure everyone is pulling in the direction and his enthusiasm will be infectious.”

Ball kicked off his caretaker reign with a 2-0 defeat of Peterborough notable for the inclusion of several players who seemed to have been frozen out by Di Canio.

Lee Cattermole responded with a fine performance while Jozy Altidore, Seb Larsson and Emanuele Giaccherini – substituted at half-time by a furious Di Canio at the Hawthorns – all played their part.

It is no coincidence some of those players have been named as the main movers behind a player’s delegation which made Di Canio’s stewardship completely untenable.

However, the players will not get it their own way if Ball takes over, according to Craddock.

“Bally is a leader through and through. He was on the pitch when we all played with him and he will take that into the dug out,” he said.

“I know he has done it before but he isa little bit older, a little bit wiser and he will command respect. He takes no prisoners whatsoever.

“He knows his stuff too. Fans probably see him from his football days as a ranter and a raver but there is more to him than that. He is a smart guy and I think you have seen how well Sunderland have done at youth level.

“That says it all to me about him.”

Kevin Ball, Sunderland's caretaker manager
Kevin Ball, Sunderland's caretaker manager
 

In the aftermath of the fiery Di Canio’s departure, it was revealed the Sunderland boss had even banned his players from making eye contact with club staff on the day of the game for fear of rattling their “focus.”

Whatever the logic of that, it flew in the face of what a player who knows the club believes is right.

Craddock said: “Sunderland is a club where there should be great links between the staff and the squad.

“It is a club of the people and there needs to be that link there. We always knew people by name and I made great friends up there. I don’t think you want to take that away from a club like Sunderland.”

Di Canio’s departure might have been rapid, but Craddock can see the logic behind deciding to dispense with the Italian.

He had experience of dropping into the Championship in 2011 with Wolves and saw the aftermath unfold in vivid technicolour.

Wolves were a perfect example of how not to handle a bad start - they left it late before making a decision on Mick McCarthy and it turned out to be the wrong one.

Craddock feels Sunderland may have come up with a better solution.

He added: “It is worrying to see them down there. It does seem a bit early but I can understand why they did what they did because there is so much resting on being in the Premier League now – it is not just the money, it is the focus and profile of being in the Premier League.

“It is so hard to get back into the Premier League when you drop down. I know that from what happened to Wolves.”

For Craddock, his testimonial year began earlier this month and he is now an artist full-time, with a studio and burgeoning portfolio to back that up. At the moment he is painting confectionery in his studio. Life, it would appear, is indeed sweet.

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David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer