Sunderland look set to welcome Daniel Ballard back to first-team action in the coming weeks, in what is undoubtedly a big boost for Tony Mowbray ahead of the busy Christmas period.
However, he would fracture his foot in the 2-2 draw against QPR in August and understandably hasn’t featured since, but it seems as if he is now nearing a return to full fitness.
The World Cup break arguably came at a good time for Sunderland, as it has allowed the likes of Ballard and Ross Stewart to continue their recovery without needing to be rushed back, and it seems as if both will now make their competitive returns before the new year.
Mowbray confirmed the latest on the 23-year-old defender in an injury update earlier this week, saying:
“We don’t think Dan Ballard is too far behind either – someone just said in the dressing room there’s two of our very best players, we can only get better. Let’s hope that proves to be the case.”
Ballard arrived at the Stadium of Light with a big reputation, having impressed in loan spells with Blackpool and Millwall in each of the last two seasons.
During his time at Bloomfield Road, where he helped the Tangerines to promotion back to the Championship, Ballard earned a huge amount of praise from former manager Neil Critchley.
“He played like a man out there today. Really assured (his) defending was outstanding up against good strikers, some experienced strikers. He kept them all quiet today, really pleased with Dan and he’s had a really good start to his Blackpool career.”
After averaging a strong 6.93 rating from WhoScored for his performances with Millwall in the Championship last season, Ballard clearly has what it takes to be an important member of Sunderland’s squad for the rest of the season.
The 23-year-old might find it tough to oust the likes of Danny Batth and Aji Alese in Mowbray’s side given their respective form but it is undoubtedly good news for the Black Cats that he is nearly back to full fitness.