Ex-Sunderland forward Martyn Waghorn hails Kevin Ball as the reason for his success

Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn has praised Sunderland legend Kevin Ball for keeping him grounded during his time in the youth teams at the club.

Ex-Sunderland forward Martyn Waghorn hails Kevin Ball as the reason for his success
Waghorn made his Premier League debut against Manchester United in 2007 in a 4-0 defeat. (Photo: Daily Mail)

Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn has hailed Kevin Ball as the main reason for his success since graduating from the youth setup at Sunderland, where he was almost released as a 15-year-old before going on to appear six times for the first-team.

Defeat on debut just the beginning of a tricky start to Waghorn's career

The 26-year-old made his first-team debut at the Stadium of Light against the club he supported as a boy, Manchester United, in 2007 when the Black Cats were under the management of  Red Devils legend Roy Keane.

The then 17-year old was on the end of a heavy 4-0 defeat that night, and his rough introduction to first-team football would continue for several frustrating years as injuries and a lack of consistent football at various clubs halted his progression, although he has finally found his feet at Rangers after scoring 25 goals in 31 games last season.

This success is all down to Kevin Ball, with Waghorn saying: "throughout everything" Ball kept him "so grounded." 

The 26-year old is finally enjoying his football in Scotland after a frustrating career in England. (Photo: Rangers)
The 26-year old is finally enjoying his football in Scotland after a frustrating career in England. (Photo: Rangers)

Waghorn recalled a conversation he had with Ball prior to his first-team debut, saying "he took me to one side and we had a coffee, and he told me not to get ahead of myself", and adding that he was reminded by Ball that he "would be coming back down to train with the under-18s" once he had made his first-team bow.

The striker said that "he [Ball] kept me really level-headed", and also felt that Ball "could see" that I could go further and further in the game. 

Waghorn's relationship with Ball didn't come without disagreements

His relationship with Ball was not free from differences of opinion though, with Waghorn admitting that he and his mentor would "argue a lot" but that this was simply "a sign of how driven we both were."

Keane and Ball both had confidence in the striker as a teenager, and although it has taken a while longer than the two expected, it appears that Waghorn has finally realised his potential in Glasgow after it looked like his career might have stagnated.