Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stead Can Be Goal Machine

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stead Can Be Goal Machine

Article excerpt

Byline: By Luke Edwards

Kevin Ball has challenged Jonathan Stead to turn the end of his goalscoring drought into a flood as he and Sunderland look to build some momentum for next season's anticipated promotion challenge, writes Luke Edwards.

Stead has had to endure one of English football's most embarrassing goal famines since his pounds 1.85m move from Blackburn Rovers in the summer.

But having finally notched his first goal for the club at the 32nd attempt at Everton last weekend, Ball hopes the striker can re-discover his goalscoring touch over the last six games of the season and prove he is capable of firing the club back into the Premiership.

"Jon's still a young lad and I've always said he will do well for this club and score goals here," said Ball, who is confident the former England Under-21 international will be stronger as a result of the strain he has been under.

"The experience with Jon, in terms of how long he has gone without a goal, will hopefully make him mentally tougher as well.

"It's been a weight off his shoulders but I have to emphasise that Jon works very hard in training and for the team and I have always said he would score goals.

"There's a bit more of a spring in his step this week. Jon's always been a buoyant character and it has been difficult for him but we're just happy he's scored. Hopefully he can now go and score a few more and set him up nicely for next season."

Remarkably, given Sunderland's troubles this season and the length of his barren spell, Stead has become one of the club's most popular players.

And while some supporters have printed special commemorative T-shirts in honour of his first goal for the club, it is obvious the former Huddersfield Town prospect is just as popular inside the dressing room as he is in the stands.

"In training and in the games he has always worked very hard for the benefit of the team and, at times, very unselfishly for the team," explained Ball, who will once again pair Stead with Chris Brown against Fulham on Saturday as Kevin Kyle and Stephen Elliott are both still injured. …

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