Daniel Ballard has often been under the radar during his career so far, but the centre-back is finally starting to get the recognition that he deserves.
Previously released two times by Arsenal only to later be re-signed, Ballard has been a regular for the Gunners at U23 level this season and has produced some encouraging performances.
Possessing a tendency to make goal-line clearances with regularity, at times Ballard has been like a bollard preventing opponents from finding the net.
This week Ballard received another boost as, despite not having yet represented Arsenal at first-team level, he was drafted into the Northern Ireland senior squad for the first time.
A player who is calm in possession, there is still much more work for Ballard to do if he is to succeed at Arsenal, but his international call-up is proof that perseverance pays off.
Ballard will hope to get some playing time for Northern Ireland, which would be an excellent achievement for the 19-year-old, and he will then return to Arsenal’s U23 side, where he will look to continue his impressive form.
Given that he was born in Stevenage, Ballard is also eligible to represent England, but that possibility will end if he features in one of Northern Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The ultimate aim for Ballard is to break into the first-team at Arsenal, something which certainly won’t be easily achieved given that he has to compete with the likes of Julio Pleguezuelo and Zech Medley in addition to the senior centre-backs.
If any player can overcome a difficult situation, though, it is Ballard, who always plays with complete commitment and also possesses impressive leadership skills.
His Northern Ireland call-up is a major boost, but Ballard certainly won’t stop there in his quest to succeed.