Kevin Ball will be handed greater responsibilities at Sunderland even if he is not appointed head coach on a permanent basis, The Journal understands.
The former Black Cats captain has been placed in temporary charge of first-team affairs in the wake of Paolo Di Canio’s dismissal 11 days ago.
Gus Poyet remains the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed the Italian.
Yet following the perceived failings of Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill and Di Canio, Ellis Short is patiently determined to ensure his next managerial appointment is the right one.
To that end, Ball has been given until at least this Saturday’s Premier League home clash with Manchester United to prove his suitability for the job.
Overseeing an expected victory over Peterborough United in the Capital One Cup and defeat in the league to Liverpool, the caretaker boss has impressed his chairman and chief executive Margaret Byrne and has always been a popular and respected figure in the corridors of the Stadium and Academy of Light.
Impress further over the coming days, and sources suggest he may be handed the reins until the end of the season.
However, The Journal understands that should Short opt for Poyet, or an alternative candidate with Tony Pulis the latest to be linked, he will also reward Ball – who as senior development coach, looks after the club’s under-21s – with more senior responsibilities still. Either way, Ball is relishing the latest opportunity afforded him, having previously assumed caretaking duties following the sacking of Mick McCarthy in March 2006.
He is determined to use what time he is granted with the seniors stars to ensure that they are open to a variety of systems.
While Di Canio preferred a rigid 4-4-2 formation, Ball deployed Emanuele Giaccherini in a deep-lying, central attacking role behind Jozy Altidore against Peterborough, then switched the Italian international to a wide-left starting position amid a five-man midfield for the visit of Liverpool.
He favours a 4-3-3 set-up with his under-21 side, and has said: “As each game goes on, the system might change.
“You would have a philosophy over the way you want to do things in time and you might have a set system, but one which can react for certain opposition.
“In time, I would love to be able to do that, but at the moment I have only had a few days with them and it is important they’re in a system they understand and are comfortable with and where they know how to play the game.”
While Ball concentrates on the senior squad and Short weighs up his options, reports in Ghana claim four youth team players from Asante Kotoko – with whom Sunderland share a partnership agreement – have been invited to Wearside for trials.
Striker Prince Amankwah and midfield trio Saddick Mohammed, Lukman Kasim and Abdul Mujeeb are expected to arrive by the end of Octoberfor a fortnight, accompanied by three members of the Ghanaian champions’ board set for talks over furthering the two clubs’ links.
Meanwhile, former Sunderland target Ahmed Musa (pictured below) is attracting interest from Fenerbahce, according to sources in Russia. The Black Cats were linked earlier this year with the 20-year-old Nigerian striker, who has 17 goals in 50 appearances for CSKA Moscow.
Under contract until 2016, he could be available for £10 million.