Northern Ireland U21 international siblings hoping to impress at Spurs and Stevenage
- Credit: Archant
WELWYN siblings Matt and Dominic Ball have represented Northern Ireland at various age groups up to U21s and are hoping to make the step into senior football.
While 20-year-old Matt is contracted to Sky Bet League One side Stevenage FC, 18-year-old brother Dominic is plying his trade with Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur’s U21s.
The pair, both midfielders, were part of Times Territory junior side Welwyn Pegasus, their team also included Harry Toffolo who is now on the books of Norwich City and playing for England U19s and Chelsea FC’s Alex Davey.
The WHT caught up with the Ball brothers at their home last week to chat about their careers so far and aims for the future.
Matt, who attended the University of Hertfordshire’s Football Development Centre in Hatfield, signed for Stevenage in July 2012 after a spell with Norwich City and towards the end of last season made his senior football league debut.
He said: “It was a disappointing season as a whole because I thought I’d go there and play more games, but I was also happy in the end to play the last two games of the season. I was pleased with my performances so overall I was happy.”
As is now a regular occurrence with young footballers, Matt is out on loan, with Skrill South side Boreham Wood FC, playing first team football.
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“Now I’m just trying to get games under my belt until January and then hopefully go back to Stevenage and play until the end of the season,” he said.
“I scored three in two so was very pleased with that and I just want to continue scoring goals and winning games.
“It’s better than just sitting around and training every day, it’s also good to have a game every Saturday, something to look forward to and something to work towards.”
Matt and Dominic qualify to play for Northern Ireland through their mother, and first pulled on the green shirt at U16 level.
Of playing internationally, Matt said: “It’s a much different style of play.
“You have got top players from all over Europe, we played Denmark last month against players from Ajax and Inter Milan and they are technically unbelievable.
“It’s very different playing against players like that to ones that aren’t technically as good, but want to work hard.
“Any sort of football you are playing is going to benefit you at a young age, different experiences are always going to help you progress as a player, you have got to take it and learn from it.”
The Balls played together in the same Northern Ireland U21 side earlier this year.
Dominic said: “The first time I played with Matt for the U21s was against Cyprus, it was weird, it was the first time since probably when we played together at Welwyn Pegasus.
“It was good, it felt normal, it was good to play with your brother.”
Dominic, who joined Spurs after being released from Watford aged 16, is getting positive reviews from his displays with the White Hart Lane club’s U21s.
His side have already beaten Manchester City’s and Chelsea’s youngsters this season.
He said: “I’ve played every game for them at the moment, but there has only been four league games.”
While he is one of the first year players in the reserves, Dominic is hoping to show what he can do.
First team boss Andre Villas-Boas was a spectator for the U21s loss to Norwich, so there is the opportunity to impress the decision makers.
“I need to keep doing what I’m doing at U21s and hopefully get out on loan after Christmas,” he said.
He is hoping for a similar route to one of his U21 team-mates who has joined QPR on loan after a spell of good form.
“The first two league games Tom Carroll played in our team, he just bossed the games against Chelsea and Manchester City and we won both.”
As well as his club football Dominic, believes playing internationally can only benefit and help develop his game.
“It gives you exposure to a lot of different games compared to what I’m playing at Spurs,” he said.
“When I’m playing for Spurs we are usually dominating the game and defensively I’m not having to do as much, when I go to Northern Ireland a lot of the time we are on the back foot, we’re quite a small nation, so I get a lot more defensive work.”
Football runs in the Ball family, father Tim played for Stevenage in the 1980s, while youngest brother Phil turns out for Codicote U16s and played for the county schools team.