Youth centre-back Daniel Ballard is one of the players back in training at Arsenal, fighting to earn his senior debut with the club.

Daniel Ballard with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Daniel Ballard with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Daniel Ballard is back in training at Arsenal, as one of the chosen few youth players receiving a coronavirus test to clear him for a return this week.

The centre-back had a really strong 2018/19 with the u23s, earning him a loan to Swindon Town. Unfortunately, he only played three games before picking up a serious knee injury. He had surgery and returned to Arsenal in mid-August.

After a long recovery, Ballard returned to play 45 minutes for the Arsenal u23s in a dramatic win over Monaco II. He was one of the star performers that day as the Gunners qualified for a semi-final they’ll now miss out on thanks to the pandemic.

There’s hope for Ballard’s season yet, though. Youth football is off the table and his loan chances are gone, but a senior debut could give his tough year a happy ending.

The defender is clearly a talented player. He already had a couple of Northern Ireland call-ups even before his loan, and he had a third planned for September before the injury. There’s no doubt Arsenal and Northern Ireland internally rate him highly.

The 20-year-old is a leader, strong in the challenge and in the air. At youth level, you can see the difference he makes on his defensive teammates when he’s involved.

Whilst he’s waiting on his first minutes for club and country, it just seems like a matter of taking the opportunity when it comes now. Perhaps the busy schedule on football’s return could provide that chance.