Daniel Ballard has hit the ground running at Millwall this season in just his second loan spell away from Arsenal.
Ballard played a key role in Blackpool’s promotion to the Championshi last term and has been one of the first names on the team sheet this season. The 21-year-old has started every league game so far and Gary Rowett was singing his praises when he spoke to NewsAtDen.
He said: “What I would say is he’s handled it all really well so far. He’s handled that step-up, his performances have been excellent. Goal-scoring for a centre-back is a nice added bonus. He’s shown he can defend really well and that’s the main thing we’re pleased with.
“I think it’s been good so far for everybody involved (in the move) and for Dan’s career. Now he’s got to maintain that – that’s the challenge.” he added.
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One win, five draws and two losses represents a slow start to the season for the Lions who have flirted with the play-off places in recent years.
Ballard’s natural trajectory, aged 21, is looking very positive, acclimatising to the second tier with ease and gaining valuable experience playing international football for Northern Ireland.
Ballard has been preferred to the experienced centre back Alex Pearce all season long which speaks volumes to Rowett’s faith in the loanee.
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Rowett’s confidence in Ballard has been clear to see from the off, the Lions’ backline and goalkeeper have been pivotal to the club’s success in recent years. Providing a firm platform for the likes of Jed Wallace to express themselves in the attacking third.
It will be interesting to see where Ballard ranks when Shaun Hutchinson returns to full fitness, the 30-year-old returned to the bench last time out, but at the moment it feels like Rowett does not want to disrupt the understanding of the Ballard, Murray Wallace and Jake Cooper back three system.
Another very exciting player is finding his feet in the Football League with Ballard looking destined to apply his trade in the Premier League sooner rather than later.