Will Arsenal loanee start against Cardiff City? Millwall boss Rowett gives his verdict

Gary Rowett looks unlikely to put Daniel Ballard back into his starting line up for Millwall’s home game against Cardiff City on Saturday.

The on-loan Arsenal defender has been out since undergoing knee surgery in December. He had been a virtual ever-present for the Lions up until the end of November.

Ballard played 45 minutes for Millwall’s U23s earlier this week. The 22-year-old Northern Ireland international was in the away end at Craven Cottage – along with Tom Bradshaw – to watch them lose 3-0 to Championship leaders Fulham.

Rowett told the South London Press: “It’s great to see him back early. But it’s a difficult one, as well as his rehab has gone.  Because when someone has been out for that length of time, having had an operation, there are still steps to take which are sensible. Probably a 45-minute exposure to a game and then maybe a 70 minutes exposure to a game – that’s usually what medical teams from both clubs like.

“The challenge with that, of course, is that it’s a lot easier with a striker to be a bit more sporadic with game time. With a defender that is more difficult.

“In an ideal world we tick those boxes before we put him back into first team action. But because Dan is such a good lad and has looked good in training, there is a temptation to chuck him back him but not really in the process of wanting to bring someone off before the end of the match – because that will affect the amount of substitutions you have late one.

“We’ll sit down today and see what is the best plan. We’ll try and work with Arsenal and be sensible. I think chucking the lad back in isn’t fair in the long term.

“We have to be respectful [to Arsenal] – he is their player and he’s their asset. We’ve loaned him for the season to try and help him, help us and help Arsenal.

“It’s important for us to build these relationships and also you can’t just be selfish in the short term – chuck him into a 90-minute game at first-team level. There’s a lot more intensity than he’s done. If something happens that is a young player’s health and career.”


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