How will Sunderland cope without Dan Ballard? | OneFootball

How will Sunderland cope without Dan Ballard?

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Football League World

Marquee signing Dan Ballard picked up a serious foot fracture during a 2-2 draw with QPR, and will be out for “the foreseeable future”. Does this jeopardise Sunderland’s positive start to the season?

Ballard was considered a real coup for the Black Cats in the summer after his arrival from Arsenal, following an impressive loan at Millwall where he made 31 appearances as a 21-year-old and steered the club to a respectable ninth place.

Foot fractures typically take between 6-8 weeks to heal, and so Sunderland are left in a difficult spot: do they get their chequebook out to fund a quality replacement, or rely on their depth until Ballard, a nailed-on starter, returns?

One fellow summer arrival to Wearside from the Premier League will be hoping to make his presence felt in Ballard’s absence.

Aji Alese, who departed West Ham to sign a three-year deal with Sunderland, is an imposing centre-back at 6 foot 4 who must surely be hoping to fill in for Ballard for Wednesday night’s trip to Sheffield United.

Alese certainly has the pedigree to be a success at this level, but at present arguably lacks the first-team experience to be thrown into the fire in the Championship.

Alese took an odd route for a serial Premier League loanee, making 10 appearances in League One for Accrington in 19-20 before dropping down a division and making just two appearances for Cambridge United the following year. Having most recently spent a year in West Ham’s youth team, Alese represents something of an unknown quantity as far as his ability is concerned after a year of development away from the senior level.

Australia international Bailey Wright would evidently be the safer option to slot in alongside Danny Batth and Denis Cirkin, having racked up over 250 appearances at Championship level across spells at Preston North End and Bristol City, but Neil could even an opt to move away from his tried and tested 3-at-the-back system in an effort to get his best available players on the pitch in the coming months.

The timing couldn’t be much worse for Sunderland from a fixture point of view, as they play promotion favourites Sheffield United, Norwich City and Watford as well as North-East rivals Middlesbrough all within the next month.

The one silver lining Sunderland can satisfy themselves with, however, is that the transfer window remains open for two more weeks. 18-year-old Jewison Bennette is one name already through the door, with the promising winger in the final stages of talks with the Black Cats.

Many fans will be hoping that some investment comes in for the back line too, if Ballard’s injury is as serious as feared.

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