News report

Arsenal defender thriving in the Championship – The Athletic

Daniel Ballard has become a true professional footballer over the past 18 months.

The 22-year-old faced adversity in his young career but always seemed to bounce back and now looks comfortable in the senior game.

His first-ever spell on loan from Arsenal at Swindon Town, in 2019-20, was cut short by a knee injury long before the pandemic ended their League Two season in March. But the centre-back recovered and was part of a promotion-winning back line at Blackpool that kept the most clean sheets in League One (22) last season.

That defensive security has carried over to his latest loan spell, again a division higher than before, with Millwall, who have kept 13 clean sheets in 37 league outings so far this season – including the last five in a row ( with Ballard in eight of those matches).

“We are diligent with all the players we bring in, but Dan has shown (comfort) at every level he has played,” Millwall manager Gary Rowett said after the 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough last weekend.

“He was comfortable in Ligue 1 with Blackpool, came in a little less conventional way than some young players at Arsenal, and every time he comes in he takes care of it. He plays for the Northern Ireland, sometimes had to play on the left and took care of it. He is a good player, very intelligent, who understands very quickly.

After amassing 53 EFL appearances across all three divisions and becoming a regular member of the Northern Ireland senior team – where two of his 10 caps saw him come up against Erling Haaland – he is truly becoming his own man.

This was particularly evident when they met Middlesbrough on Saturday.