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“He’s a Tony Adams type”- Can Daniel Ballard be our 1st Homegrown Centre Back since Captain Fantastic

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Ballard – The new Tony Adams?

The next subject in my series on Arsenal Youth Stars is Daniel Ballard, recently in the news for making his debut for Northern Ireland before taking his first team bow for Arsenal. Whilst born not far from Arsenal’s Colney training facility, in nearby Stevenage, Ballard qualifies for the province via his mother and represented NI and under 18 and Under 21 level, with distinction.

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A proud international debut

So, let’s find out more about Arsenal’s newest full international, as ever, by chatting to John Williamson, who will have watched Ballard development than probably most ardent supporters.

DS: First, John, let’s go back a few years, as I understand Ballard was released by Arsenal, deemed not good enough, as a schoolboy, in the Brady era. I think he was resigned to playing for his hometown team, Stevenage, when apparently, he got a call from Andries Jonker, to come back to Arsenal? What happened?

Response: Daniel was actually due to be released twice by Arsenal, the first time was when he was 13; Brady told him the news and during the Interview, Daniel convinced Brady that he could make it with The Arsenal he was given a second chance.

Over the next two years Daniel had several major injuries and got very little game time; during this time, Brady had left the Academy and was replaced by Andries Jonker.

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Reprieve from Yonker

Due to the lack of game time, just before his 16th Birthday, Daniel was informed that he would not be considered for a scholarship. Daniel was having trials with a number of clubs whilst still training with Arsenal; one of those clubs was Stevenage. Just before Daniel was contemplating signing a contract for them, Jonker contacted him to fly with the U16s to Germany for a pre-season training camp and friendlies. On the flight home, Jonker offered him a contract which was agreed instantly. Since then, there has been no turning back.

DS: Back at the club he was captaining the U18s and led that team to the FA Youth Cup. It seems the lad can not only play but has leadership qualities?

Response: He most certainly has, Daniel reads the game very well and has a strong personality; with his position at the back, he has the ability to see what is happening all over the pitch, enabling him to give advice and position his team mates, making him an ideal captain.

DS: I have heard him called a ‘beast’ by some and I assume this is with affection and complimentary about his defensive qualities? The player himself, with I guess, a nod to a player his must aspire to, has described himself as a Jonny Evans type centre back. How would you describe his style and liken him to John?

Response: Daniel is a big, strong, right sided centre back who reads the game well, a good header of the ball and makes crunching tackles when required. He has a no thrills style who can sniff out danger and deal with it; he reminds me of a Tony Adams type of player.

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Adams style defender

DS: I know you had high hopes last season when he secured a loan to Swindon but of course that chance for first team action in tough league was dashed by injury. Do you think Arsenal will look to loan him this season or will Arteta wait to see which of his may first team central defenders are sold?

Response: Unfortunately Daniel has had a few setbacks with injuries, I recall an U16 match at Tottenham’s training ground where Daniel collapsed on the pitch, an ambulance was called and there was a 20 minute delay, then as you alluded to, last season whist on loan at Swindon, Daniel got injured playing against Colchester United which resulted in an operation and once again missing time due to rehab.

I believe that Daniel would benefit from a loan spell as at nearly 21, he needs competitive game time which I feel playing for the U23s would not bring.

DS: As a follow up, knowing Daniel’s character and belief in his own ability, will he see the arrival of Mari, Saliva and Gabriel as an insurmountable barrier or a welcome challenge? In short, will he believe he can prove himself worthy of first team chances?

Response: Knowing Daniels character, I feel he will relish the challenge and will make him more determined to succeed at the Club. He certainly has confidence in his own ability and will welcome the competition.

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Not frightened by new talent signed like Saliba

DS: Certainly, making it as a homegrown central defender is difficult at Arsenal and more so now than ever. Keown and Adams would be the last in that position to truly break through, so we are talking 35 years ago. Obviously those two were special talents, but, and you know what’s coming, could Daniel be our first self-produced centre back since Big Tone?

Response: As well as those already mentioned, we have Mark McGuinness, Zach Medley in the U23s, as well as Alex Kirk and Mazeed Ogungbo in the U18s who all have the potential to make it to the top, therefore the competition is strong.

DS: Willowmeter time JW, with 0 being no chance of being a regular at The Arsenal and 20 being odds on.

Response: I do believe that Daniel has the ability to make it with Arsenal. What is needed is for Daniel to remain injury free and in a season or so, have a pathway.

At this moment in time, I feel 14/20, though this can rise should things open up for him.

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4 Responses to “He’s a Tony Adams type”- Can Daniel Ballard be our 1st Homegrown Centre Back since Captain Fantastic

  1. allezkev September 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm #

    Thanks for that, it’s good to see so many promising young centre backs at the club after what seemed an eternity without any, in fact it was so bad that Bielik and Sheaf were tried out in that position when they were clearly midfielders. I do wonder if during that long period with only Scott Marshall briefly getting game time post Adams/Keown, if the profile of centre back changed? Now we seem to be scouting centre backs that not only can play but also have the right physique in terms of height.
    Looking beyond those mentioned I’ve read some encouraging things about Taylor Foran in particular and Zach Awe.

    • Dave Seager September 10, 2020 at 4:08 pm #

      Great comment. Good old Scott M

  2. Victor Thompson September 10, 2020 at 4:57 pm #

    Dave, I feel sorry for Daniel. My ears pricked up when I saw that he likend himself to Jonny Evans whilst John Williams thinks he is like Tony Adams. In either case I would be delighted if he made it. Unfortunately Tony is not there to be his mentor and Jonny is now in a N.Ireland team which is in flux. Jonny Evans is their Captain and until last season they had a tight defence with three West Brom players but now there is only Jonny as their main man. Young Daniel played last week against Norway but Jonny was off for personal reasons. Norway won 5 -1. I fear the N.Ireland job will have nothing but pressure for him. If he bottles up N Irelands defence and saves them from falling back into their former role as punch bags, he will indeed be as big and valuable as the great Tony.

    • Dave Seager September 10, 2020 at 5:23 pm #

      Fingers crossed. I hear he is off to Blackpool for season

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