Northern Ireland defender Daniel Ballard has left Arsenal and signed a three-year deal with newly-promoted Sunderland for an undisclosed fee.
Despite spending 14 years with the North London club, the 22-year-old failed to break into the first-team at the Emirates though he did enjoy successful loan spells at Swindon Town, Blackpool and last season with Championship side Millwall.
“It feels amazing to be here and I’m extremely happy,” Ballard told the Sunderland website. “The fan base and size of this football club speaks for itself and having been up here to have a look around, it feels like an exciting place to be.
“Supporters can expect to see a player who loves defending and tackling – I’m more of a traditional centre half and I want to add those qualities to the team, whilst also bringing something a little extra.
“I’m now looking to take the next step forward in my career and I believe this is the perfect place to do it.”
Sunderland manager Alex Neil was equally delighted to have brought the highly-rated Stevenage born defender to the Stadium of Light.
“First and foremost, Daniel will add competition,” said the former Norwich City and Preston North End boss. “Callum Doyle’s loan deal ended in May and Arby Xhemajli left the club, so we wanted to add in that area and Daniel fits into our structure of being a young, up and coming player who also has Championship experience.
“He fits the bill and he also knows what it takes to win, sampling success with Blackpool in the play-offs before having a year under his belt [in the second tier] with Millwall last season. We are really pleased to get this deal over the line.”
Ballard, whose mother is from Northern Ireland, has become an influential figure in Ian Baraclough’s squad over the past two seasons scoring twice in 16 senior international appearances since making his full debut against Romania back in September 2020.