SUNDERLAND defender Dan Ballard admits he’ll have healthy competition in defence when he makes a complete recovery from injury but he is on the right track to make a timely return.
Ballard suffered a fractured foot in the early stages of the season during the 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers at the Stadium of Light.
The defender has been ruled out for months and the Black Cats medical staff were hopeful of a return to action in the winter months which could be on the cards.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s going really well. Of course it is really frustrating and it is quite a long injury. It takes a long time to heal but everything is going to plan and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Ballard suffered the injury from an innocuous challenge by Queens Park Rangers winger Albert Adomah which was ruled him out for the majority of the season. Before that, he had made three appearances for the Black Cats. “I’ve loved every minute apart from the injury of course” he added.
“It was good that I got them first few games. It showed me what an amazing club it is. Playing in front of 40,000 was something that I’ve never done before so I am happy that I’ve done that and it gives me the motivation to get back as quick as possible.”
In the absence of Ballard, Luke O’Nien has deputised in his place alongside Danny Batth in central defence. Aji Alese has also been able to step into the shoes of Dennis Cirkin in that time showing that the Black Cats have strong options when injury strikes.
Ballard continued: “We have got an extremely talented squad. It’s really good healthy competition and there are players in there that I can learn from, they can learn from me. We got a good team atmosphere there.
“It is an extremely young squad. I might have a few extra games compared to some of them and I’ll try to help them just like the more experienced boys will help me. I feel confident, I’ve got a few games under my belt and I’m just looking forward to getting back to show people what I can do.”
Head coach Tony Mowbray remains hopeful that Ballard can make a return to the first-team before the Championship season pauses for the international break.