Watch Echo duo Kevin Clark and Chris Cordner pay tribute to Kevin Ball and fans and former players hail departing Sunderland AFC legend
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A statement today, Thursday, February 17, confirmed ‘Bally’ had left the Stadium of Light.
The four-time Player of the Year joined the Black Cats in 1990 and captained the side through one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history, overseeing two promotions, including the then-record 105 points tally as Sunderland cruised to the Championship in 1999, as well as the heartbreak of play-off disappointment the previous season.
His association with the club has continued since, with spells as caretaker manager, as well as a role at the Academy of Light, overseeing the development of the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford, and most recently as a club ambassador.
Gary Bennett, who spent several years alongside Kevin Ball at Roker Park, said the midfielder had been ‘a huge part of Sunderland’.
"We all know what Kevin is all about,” he said.
"He is a winner, not just as a footballer but as a person. He has been a huge part of Sunderland, not just as a player but as a coach and stepping in as caretaker manager and most recently he has played an ambassadorial role.
"He has worked right through the club.”
A Love Supreme’s Paul ‘Sobs’ Dawson said Bally had never been a flashy player but had always been utterly dependable: “He would get the ball, then give it to Lee Clark, Summerbee or Johnston and let them get on with it – but he would be standing in the middle of the pitch shouting at them and telling them all what to do,” he said.
"He was always urging people on.
"A mate of mine once said to Kevin ‘You weren’t the prettiest footballer but you would be the first name on my teamsheet every week’ and that just about sums Kevin up.
"He just kept going. Occasionally memorable goals would come along, like the diving header against Chelsea, but if you can put in the sort of tackle that gets the crowd up on their feet, that’s almost as good as a goal.”
Paul said he wasn’t sure what Kevin would do next but knew he would be devoted to it: “He has had 32 years at Sunderland, so it will be difficult to go somewhere else,” he said.
"But he is the sort of man who, once he takes something on, will always be committed and very passionate.”
FA Cup winner Jimmy Montgomery said Bally was one of the club’s true greats: “He is an absolute legend for what he has done on the footballing side and for Sunderland as a whole,” he said.
"He has been absolutely brilliant for the club. We have done a lot together and he is a great mate of mine.
"It was always me and Bally – we were like the dynamic duo. He will be a miss personally, but we will keep in touch.”
Jimmy said he could not see Kevin taking on a role with any other club unless it was the manager’s seat: “I think that if he goes anywhere else, he will want to be the top man,” he said.