Arsenal youngster earns first senior international call-up

Arsenal Under-23 centre-back Daniel Ballard has earned a call-up to the Northern Ireland national team, per Sky Sports.

The 19-year-old has won four caps for the Under-21s and is now in line to make his senior debut.

What’s the word?

Manager Michael O’Neill named his squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus on Tuesday and Ballard has made the grade.

A centre-back who can also play as a defensive midfielder, the teenager has made 12 appearances in Premier League 2 this season, along with three outings in the EFL Trophy. He signed his first professional contract in June of last year.

Indeed, Ballard has only recently made the transition from Under-18s football to the Under-23s and made a total of 34 appearances for the former at Arsenal.

In those games, he scored five goals.

Ballard, who has yet to make his senior debut at the north London club, has already scored at international level, netting in a 1-0 win over Iceland in a European Under-21 Championship qualifying match in November.

Trust in youth

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

It’s an old adage but it’s especially true when trying to reinvigorate a nation.

Northern Ireland have qualified for one major tournament in their history, Euro 2016, and progressed to the Round of 16. They did not make the grade for the 2018 World Cup, however.

And manager O’Neill clearly believes that youth is the way forward if his inclusion of Ballard is anything to go by.

It is strange to think that he could play for his country at senior level before his club but that may well become a reality; it can only be a matter of time before he is in the Gunners starting XI, too.