It is said that persistence pays off, but that doesn’t begin to tell the tale of Danny Ballard’s Arsenal career so far.
Yesterday was rather significant for the 18-year-old defender as he signed his first professional contract at the club where he was been developed since he was seven.
During that time, however, Ballard was twice told by the club that he was being released, only to subsequently be retained.
The most recent occasion came when the club were offering scholarship deals to members of the U16 squad in 2016, with Ballard being informed that he would be let go.
Ballard had trials elsewhere but was later contacted by Arsenal, who asked if he would be able to play in a youth friendly against Bayern Munich as another player was unavailable.
The centre-back was initially hesitant, but he eventually decided to take part in the game and he impressed to the extent that he was offered a two-year scholarship deal.
Since then Ballard has developed further and is now on professional terms, meaning he will be a fully-fledged member of the U23 squad from next season.
A player with a fierce winning mentality and impressive leadership skills, Ballard was the captain of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup side last season as they reached the final of that competition.
In addition, he marked his debut for the U23s by scoring against Tottenham Hotspur, and next season he will look to gain plenty of further experience at that level.
There are, inevitably, still some aspects of Ballard’s game that require improvement. His disciplinary record is rather concerning as he picks up yellow cards with regularity due to rash challenges, while he can also find it difficult to deal with quick attackers at times.
Ballard does, though, deserve much credit just for reaching this point and he will be now aim to push on even further.
It won’t be easy for a young centre-back to make the breakthrough at Arsenal with a host of other prospects ahead of him including the likes of Konstantinos Mavropanos, Krystian Bielik and Ben Sheaf among others.
Ballard is, though, also capable of operating as a defensive-midfielder if required and produced some impressive performances in that position at U18 level at the start of last season.
There is much more hard work to come for Ballard as he attempts to break into the first-team but for now he deserves a lot of credit for defying the odds to get to this stage.