Ex-Arsenal defender will be signing of the season for Sunderland - but he has competition from ex-West Ham man

I mentioned at the start of the current season how I felt that the addition of Dan Ballard would be one of the signings of the season.

I still believe the former Arsenal man – once back fully fit - will prove to be just that for Sunderland this season in the Championship.

However, after watching Aji Alese perform in the last few games, Sunderland seemed to have found another gem.

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If the fee, which is rumoured to be around the half a million pound mark, is correct then that is a fantastic bit of business for the club.

Daniel Ballard in action for Sunderland.

The former West Ham youth product seems to have everything you would want in a top class defender.

He is big, strong, quick but for me what stands out is his use of the ball.

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Some of his passing on Saturday against Preston North End at the Stadium of Light was sublime and he seems to have a real calming personality on the pitch for Tony Mowbray’s Sunderland side.

He also smells danger as we saw at the weekend with his unbelievable clearance off the line.

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West Ham must have some top defenders if they were willing to let him go.

Sunderland’s recruitment has been good this season and hopefully this will continue over the next few years.

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Club favourite Stephen Elliott writes exclusively for the Echo every week bringing you his expert eye on all things red and white as Sunderland return to the Championship after four years in League One.