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Sunderland defender Ballard tribute to Arsenal: What I learned; Luiz stunned me


Sunderland defender Daniel Ballard has paid tribute to former club Arsenal.

Ballard, 22, came through the Arsenal academy and left the club he joined aged eight this summer after being snapped up by Alex Neil in a £2million deal.

He told The Sun: “The biggest thing I learned at Arsenal was hard work because I was never the best player in my age group or the one who they thought would go on and make a good career.

“They drilled into me that I had to work the hardest, respect the coaches, listen and learn.

“You of course learn football but I also learned about resilience too.

“Naturally I like hard work. That comes easier to me than some people and that's perhaps because football has never been easy for me, it's always been tough. So I've had to work hard otherwise I'd not be in the position I am today.

“As I was growing up in the younger age groups, I was a late developer. Even at 18, I still wasn't a centre-back because I wasn't tall enough.

“I was one of the slowest, couldn't move my legs and I wasn't a technically gifted player.

“Yet I've always been naturally good at defending but compared to the other lads with the ball I was always below the curve whereas now my body is stronger, I feel comfortable on the ball and all that work at Arsenal has worked out better in the long run.

“I don't feel below the curve or as though I'm the one struggling — but rather that I can make a major impact."

Ballard had the privilege of training with the first team under Arsene Wenger alongside Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil — and later got blown away by the skills of Luiz.

He said: “I did four or five sessions while Wenger was around. Even though I was only used as a training player, it's great to be able to always say I trained under him.

“I was blown away by how good Wilshere and Ozil were — they were on another planet and they just seemed world beaters to a youngster like me.

“Luiz was someone I was particularly taken aback by in terms of how good he was on the ball and the style of play he had. It made me understand how far away I was to that level and how hard I had to work."

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