All Eyes On Chopra!

Last updated : 20 April 2008 By Footy Mad - Editor

Former Sunderland skipper Kevin Ball believes Tynesider Michael Chopra's decision to join the Wearsiders is proof of his mental strength, while the Geordies will be looking towards Chopra's body language.

Clarkie was always (and will always be) a Geordie, and he always made that known.

I met him in a pub in Durham city when Clark was a Sunderland player, we had just returned from Newcastle's match against Liverpool (a Sunday fixture).

I asked him to sign my Newcastle season ticket, and as Michael Gray was posing for photos with a young lady sat on his lap ... Clarkie rubbed my season ticket in Gray's face saying: "That's the club!"

Chopra is set to line up against his boyhood favourites Newcastle in tomorrow's Tyne-Wear derby, almost two years after he left St James's Park in search of first-team football, and I think many Geordies understand that he joined to play Premiership football.

Obviously it is a difficult match for him, he is now a Sunderland player, but any disrespect towards Newcastle will see 50,000 Toon fans baying for his blood.

Chopra's only Premiership goal for United came in a 4-1 win against Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear game at the Stadium of Light two years ago - when Ball was caretaker-manager of the Wearsiders.

Ball, who is now assistant academy manager at Sunderland: "When Michael came to the club, the first thing I did was shake his hand as hard as I possibly could!

"No, seriously, when he signed I shook his hand and just wished him the best of luck at the club.

"I was really pleased that Michael came here and I think it is testament to his mental strength.

"He may get banter sometimes from people he knows on the other side of the water, but that's something he will deal with.

"I admire him for coming here and I'm sure we'll see even more of him as time goes by.

"From anyone's point of view, when you switch between two sides who are local rivals it can be difficult - particularly if they end up playing against the team they grew up supporting.

"But, ultimately, football is a profession where you move about and if a team lets you leave and you move to a team across the water, you have to be professional enough to play to your ability.

"I played the majority of my careerat Sunderland and I am pleased that I never came up against them after I had left.

"Would I have enjoyed it? Absolutely not. I would have hated the build-up to that game.

"But when it came to the match itself I would have gone into playing mode and I would have treated it no differently than any other game. I would have done my job to the best of my ability.

"That's just the way I am. Knowing Michael, he will do exactly the same for us."