Daniel Ballard has been named in the senior Northern Ireland squad for the second time in a row, despite not having made his debut for Arsenal just yet.
After his call-up for European Qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus in March, Ballard has been named in the Northern Ireland squad again for another couple of games against the same two sides this month.
Ballard didn’t manage to get onto the pitch back in March, though he did make the bench against Estonia. Whether he’ll get a chance to play this time around remains to be seen, but the main positive is that he continues to be able to train with senior professionals and learn how international football works.
This second call-up proves that Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was impressed with what he saw from the Arsenal centre-back in March, which is certainly encouraging. Ballard is yet to make his first-team debut in North London, and he hasn’t even made the squad at this stage, but he’s very highly rated among those who watch the academy.
Arsenal have taken notice of Ballard’s development as well, tying him down to a contract extension last week. The highlight of Ballard’s individual season has certainly been his knack for goalline clearances, bailing his goalkeepers out on a number of occasions. You can watch a compilation of all these clearances below:
Ballard has helped the Arsenal u23s to eight clean sheets in 18 PL2 appearances, even captaining the side in a recent 5-0 win over Derby. The 19-year-old has also helped his country to three clean sheets in four games this season at u21 level. Congratulations to him on his latest call-up.