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Daniel Ballard hailed as future 'rock' for Arsenal as fans react to latest Blackpool heroics against Oxford United


Daniel Ballard has earned rave reviews for his Blackpool performances this season.

Daniel Ballard has earned rave reviews for his Blackpool performances this season.

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Daniel Ballard has earned rave reviews for his Blackpool performances this season.

Northern Ireland centre-back Daniel Ballard is increasingly being tipped for a career at the very top of the English football pyramid as his impressive performances for Blackpool continue.

The 21-year-old is spending the season on loan in League One, kick-starting his senior career as his wait for a first team debut at parent club Arsenal continues.

On Saturday, he netted his third senior goal to cap a 2-0 win at Oxford United and stretch the Tangerines' unbeaten run to nine games as they mount a promotion challenge, currently 10th in the table but just three points off the play-off places with games in hand on teams above them.

Central to all of that has been new Northern Ireland hero Ballard, who has also earned rave reviews for his opening five international caps - not least a dominating performance in Norway up against one of Europe's top marksmen in Erling Haaland.

Blackpool have kept eight clean sheets in the 15 league games Ballard has started, conceding just eight goals in that time.

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It's little wonder, really, that he has fans both dreaming of a longer stay in the north west and also tipping him to shine on his return to London.

Graham Butterworth predicted that Ballard, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his mum Gill, will "be Arsenal's rock for years".

While Craig Hart begged Blackpool to "give Arsenal what they want (to) get him signed up permanently", Liam Douglas English pointed out that the 'proper centre half' would "cost millions".

Given that he's under contract at the Emirates for another two seasons, it's hard to argue against that logic especially, as Rob Walker pointed out, Ballard "looks the real deal".

Northern Ireland fans will be hoping that continues in the upcoming international break, when Gareth McAuley has tipped Ballard to line-up in a back three alongside established pairing Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart to try and hold out Italy in Parma.

"Good luck with the national side (don’t get injured) and then see you in tangerine back for the playoff push," concluded Ben Holland.

This remarkable season is the latest upturn in what has already been an eventful career, Ballard twice released by Arsenal before forcing his way back in both times - all before his 18th birthday.

“Daniel can go right to the top,” Frank Stapleton, the scout that first brought Ballard to Arsenal, told the Belfast Telegraph earlier in the season. “He can be another Jonny Evans. He will get a career out of the game and he’ll play in the Premier League, all day long. Without a shadow of a doubt, he has got that in his locker.

“Whether that is at Arsenal is another matter because it’s so rare that the top clubs put young kids in at centre-half. They don’t really take that gamble.

“Dan proved what he can do up against Haaland, one of the top prospects in the world, and Arsenal definitely think he’s got a chance. He needs a run of games injury-free on loan at Blackpool and go from there. There’s no better experience than what he’s getting with Northern Ireland and he has already carried that into Blackpool.”

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