Interview

‘I’ve worked so hard for this… I’m really excited’

Just two months on from being named in Northern Ireland’s senior squad, Daniel Ballard has been rewarded with a contract extension.

The 19-year-old impressed in the Premier League 2 this season, making 18 appearances and keeping seven clean sheets, and his next target is first-team action.

We spoke to Ballard about his new deal and his ambitions - and this is what he said.

on signing a contract extension…
It’s been a very long season and I’ve worked really hard for this moment. All the emotions have come in one day and I’m really excited. I’ve worked very hard for this and I’m looking forward to the years to come at Arsenal. 

on how he’d assess his season under Freddie Ljungberg’s guidance…
I think I’ve grown a lot, especially from the start. I think I found it tough coming into the under-23s, but I’ve learnt so much under Freddie and towards the end of the season I think it started to show, and I was happy with my performances. 

on what part of his game has really developed…
I think Freddie has helped me a lot with my work on the ball; my technique, when to pass, what decisions to make and I’ve learnt so much during this time with him. I think that’s been the major thing that’s improved, and then obviously my defending and knowledge of the game continues to get better.

on receiving a call-up to Northern Ireland senior squad…
That was a proud moment for me. You learn so much going away with the seniors because they’re regular pros playing first-team football throughout the leagues, so you learn so much and you see how professional they are and the standard I need to get to. 

on the players he’s looking to learn from…
I was really impressed with Rob Holding at the start of the year and the period when Laurent Koscielny played a few games with us. You can learn a lot from such an experienced player, so they’re two players I really look up to. 

on what he wants to achieve over the next 12 months…
I need to continue to develop. I’m not sure on the plans for next season, but I want to push towards the first team as soon as possible. It would be a dream to play for Arsenal, so that’s a goal I can work towards over the next few years now.