Ballard is exactly the type of signing that I expected us to make this summer, and I imagine we’ll see even more players of his ilk arriving as the weeks progress.
We’ve lost Jordan Willis, Arbenit Xhemajli, Callum Doyle and Tom Flanagan this year, and that means we have a couple of spots to fill at centre-back at least, but the acquisition of Ballard shows that we’re going in a different direction.
First and foremost, he’s already proven at this level, despite his young age. He’s a fully-fledged international, a regular in the Northern Ireland team, and he comes to us from one of the top clubs in Europe, so you’d expect that he has very high standards, and ambitions to play at a level higher than the one he and we find ourselves at presently.
That said, we still need at least one more central defender, in my opinion, and given that the three senior players we all have are quite similar - physical ‘kick and head it’-type defenders - I’d like to see us go out and pick up a left-footed centre half who, like Ballard, still has their best years ahead of them.
The transfer window doesn’t close for another two months, so we have plenty of time, but the more immediate issues are in the full-back positions and up front, so I’d like to think we’ll pick up another couple of players in the next few weeks so that we at least have the key positions covered for when the pre-season action gets fully underway.
Malc Dugdale says...
The signing of Ballard is a great bit of business, and with him, Bailey Wright and Danny Batth, we have the core of a good central defence.
However, I do think we need one more player, after we released both Arby and Jordan Willis, and if that comes in the shape of a new signing or as a youth who can potentially take his chance, then I think we will be close to ready in this area of the park.
It is nice to start the season with a decent left-back already in place in Dennis Cirkin, and I think he will shine at this level.
With Trai Hume and Niall Huggins, we have some decent options, but I think we need to avoid having to fall back on the likes of Carl Winchester, Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch for defensive or wing-back duties, as we will surely be punished for fielding players in unfamiliar positions.
Finally, although Anthony Patterson has signed a new contract, we still need another goalkeeper in order to be fully ready in the defensive third.
With Thorben Hoffman and Lee Burge both gone, and Patto not really proven at this level, it isn’t clear to me what kind of approach we will take for a second and third-choice, or whether Patterson will be one of those, but we certainly need another goalie in the coming month.
So, a goalkeeper, a wide defender and another centre-back, and I think we are all sorted.
We need other slots filled before these, however, so I will be happy if the focus switches to other areas for a couple of weeks, namely to beef up our attacking options.
It has been good work so far from Kristjaan Speakman and company. Bagging lads like Ballard is nothing short of impressive.
Kelvin Beattie says...
The signing of Daniel Ballard represents a very good statement of intent.
His credit rating from Blackpool and Millwall is high, and his age and experience from last season also ticks a number of boxes.
Currently, we have three players who offer defensive versatility in Gooch, Winchester and O’Nien, and I would be happy to go into the season with these options.
Given the glimpses that we have seen so far, I would expect to see Hume and Huggins nail down the right-back slot between them.
I also would like to see a left sided full-back or wing-back brought in to push Cirkin, and as cover for injuries or suspensions. I have generally liked what I have seen of Cirkin and can see him maturing into a fine defender, but he is still young and needs time to develop his all-round defensive game.
With Corry Evans and Jay Matete, our defensive midfield options look OK, and I would like to see us sign a goalscoring, box-to-box player to compliment the mercurial talents of Dan Neil & Alex Pritchard, which is why the pursuit of Jack Rudoni makes so much sense to me.
I would also welcome another addition up front.
Ross Stewart did well last season, but we cannot rely on him being available every game (on the basis that we do not sell him). In my view, Nathan Broadhead would be a good buy, as would Jack Clarke.
There may well be other options that the management team have their eyes on, and I have confidence that Speakman and the team are chasing the right kind of player.
Cannot wait to get going again!
Andrew Smithson says...
There is a bit of buzz around the signing of Daniel Ballard and I’m excited about seeing him in action. If he is as good as people are saying, then we could have landed ourselves a bargain.
Like Ballard, Danny Batth and Bailey Wright both know the Championship well, and they ended last season in excellent form, so we seem to have good options in central defence.
Full-back could now be the focus for the time being, and although I like the options we have, I do still think we are light, particularly on the left.
That is not meant as a criticism of Dennis Cirkin as I really like him, but I just feel that we could do with a bit more depth in case of the usual worries surrounding injuries and suspensions.
There are also some slight question marks over the right hand side - again, not because I don’t rate the individuals, but because they are either finding their feet in senior football, have experienced injury worries, or may be seen by the management as being better utilised further up the pitch.
We don’t want our younger players being burned out again, but there is only so much money that can be spent and only so many slots available. Alex Neil seems to like his players to be able to adapt, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the next signings are able to cover a couple of positions, and better still, are genuinely two-footed.
Either way though, we aren’t a million miles off where we need to be in defence, in my opinion.