Sunderland’s Dan Ballard explains Arsenal disappointment and why he can now concentrate on football
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Sunderland defender Dan Ballard says he’ll always be thankful for the upbringing he received at Arsenal - even if he didn’t feature for the Gunners’ first team.
The 24-year-old centre-back came through the ranks in North London, amid loan spells at Swindon, Blackpool and Millwall, before signing Sunderland on a permanent deal in the summer of 2022.
After overcoming multiple injury setbacks during his first season on Wearside, Ballard has been a regular starter for both the Black Cats and Northern Ireland this term and still credits his former coaches at Arsenal.
“It was amazing growing up there,” Ballard told Sky Sports when asked about his spell with the Gunners. “I think they’ve helped me so much, all the coaches throughout the years. They’ve probably given me the best platform to go and build my football career. I’m forever sort of thankful to the club for that. It was a little bit disappointing I never got the opportunity to represent the club as they helped me so much but it was a brilliant upbringing.”
“I was quite fortunate where I got a couple of sessions in when I was quite young before Arsene Wenger left. There was a lot of change obviously during that period and a few different managers. They are obviously going really well at the minute with a good manager and I learnt quite a bit from Mikel (Arteta) in my short time training with the first team.”
Premier League club West Ham were credited with interest in Ballard over the summer, yet the defender signed a new deal at Sunderland, until 2027, where he has received regular first-team football in the Championship this season.
“Personally I feel in a good spot,” the defender added. “I feel really good, I feel in a good spot. It’s nice just going into games being able to concentrate on the football and enjoy your football rather than thinking about other things like injuries. I feel like I’m in a spot now where I can really work on my game, go and enjoy my football and being injury free is brilliant.”