Sunderland boss reveals a key transfer challenge
The 22-year-old was in high demand after two successful loans at Blackpool and then in the Championship with Millwall.
Sunderland have paid a seven-figure fee to secure the central defender on a three-year deal, with a club option of a fourth.
Neil says that with British talent in even higher demand post-Brexit, it is a significant coup for the club.
The head coach added that the facilities and fanbase were proving crucial for the club in their bid to strengthen ahead of the first season back at Championship level.
“The new regulations make it extremely difficult to bring in players from the continent, so any young British talent is at a premium and naturally, club scouting networks are all aware of the same types of players," Neil explained.
“It then comes down to what your project looks like and what the club itself can provide – the fan base, our stadium, all of that is a massive selling point for us and it helps when we’re trying to attract players.
“He will bring some different qualities to our backline - he is mobile for a big lad and he is aggressive, so I’m really looking forward to working with him.
“We are really pleased to get this deal over the line.”
Ballard could be in contention to appear in Sunderland’s two friendlies against Rangers and AS Roma during their week-long training camp in Portugal, which begins on Wednesday.