Dan Ballard says Sunderland must learn from the mistakes of recent months and put "everything in place" this summer to give the the Black Cats the best chance of mounting a Championship promotion push next term.

Centre-half Ballard says the play-offs must be the "minimum aim" on Wearside. Sunderland fell way short of a second successive top six finish in the Championship, finishing 17 points adrift of the play-offs, and while Ballard admits the way last season played out was "not ideal", he says everyone at the club will learn from the experience and believes the summer break provides a crucial opportunity to reflect and prepare to right the wrongs.

The 24-year-old says there's a dressing room desire to get back on track and also believes new faces this summer will help to refresh the squad and drive standards.

"All the mistakes and everything we've gone through, it's not ideal but we'll learn from it," says the former Arsenal youngster.

"We missed out on the play offs by a long way but it's hopefully something we can build on next year, look at the mistakes we've made and put them right. Hopefully we can be a lot higher up the table and be competitive.

"There's a lot of games during the season, there's not much break between games so sometimes if you go on a run of negative results it's hard to find the positives and change things around.

"This break will give everyone the chance to look back, adjust some things and all the players will be working hard and are excited for next year.

"We can all give a little bit more and I'm sure new players will come to the team to add strength in depth and to push the players that are already here and bring the whole standard up.

"The play offs has to be our goal, the size of the club, the fans that come to every game, that should be the minimum. That's the players, staff, everyone at the club, that has to be the aim and we need to put everything in place this summer so when the new season starts we can have a chance at challenging for the top six.

"The Premier League is the goal for the club and myself personally. We're going to do everything we can to get there."


For all it was a season to forget for Sunderland, Ballard as an individual had an impressive campaign, further establishing himself as a key figure for the Black Cats and starting 43 of the 46 Championship games.

He feels like he's forged a strong relationship with the supporters, and was particularly thankful for the love after the win at West Brom late in the season, when he'd been on the receiving end of criticism from the home fans.

He told the club website: "Personally it was a good season. I played a lot more games than the season before and felt quite comfortable in the team.

"We as a team didn't achieve nearly as much as what we hoped for, so that was disappointing. But early in the season there were spells we can look back on. We enjoyed those moments but unfortunately it faded out towards the end of the season.

"My stand out moments were probably my goal at QPR even though it was just a tap in. It was my first for the club and to do it in front of the away fans on that day was a great feeling. We went on to win the game.

"I've wanted to build a relationship with the fans because they've been so supportive, even when we've struggled at times.

"At the end of that West Brom game, that was a lot of frustration from previous games and moments. It was probably just letting a bit of frustration out. I was happy to see the fans who have travelled away go home happy, that was a really nice moment."