As the season winds down and his time on loan at Rangers comes to an end, Dominic Ball knows that it is up to Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino as to what his future at the club will be. Ball joined Spurs' academy from Watford in 2011 and has been on a season-long loan at Scottish giants Rangers this campaign.
The 20-year-old center-back has made 25 appearances for Rangers, helping them clinch the title in the Scottish Championship thus securing their return to the top flight of Scottish football following four years in the lower leagues. Ball has spoken highly of his time in Scotland playing for manager Mark Warburton.
"I love the lads here, and the manager, and I'd definitely be open to coming back here. Playing under the gaffer and David Weir at Rangers means I'll improve. The standard here is very good and I think I've improved up to now, but obviously I'm still looking to improve more."
By all accounts Ball has improved during his time in Scotland. He's even seen some action in defensive midfield for The Gers. Ball has yet to appear for the Tottenham senior team, but he is a veteran of Spurs' U-21 and U-18 squads. He's also appeared for England at the U-20 level after switching allegiances from Northern Ireland in 2013.
With Spurs defense much improved this season following the additions of Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer, Ball understands that he probably isn't good enough for Pochettino's first team yet.
"It's down to Spurs and the manager there. I'll have to see what the options are and what the manager at Spurs wants. I'm contracted with them and I keep in touch with them every couple of weeks. I haven't been there so I don't know the standard. We're talking about three or four world-class players playing at centre-back and holding-mid. I'm probably not ready to go in there, but I'll push. I believe in myself to see what happens."
This is a refreshingly ambitious attitude for a young player to have. Pochettino has shown that youth players who work hard in training and perform well at their level will eventually get a chance with the senior squad. Unfortunately for Ball, Spurs are lucky to not only have high quality center-backs in the first team, but in the academy too with prospects like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Christian Maghoma coming through.
Tottenham have developed a very good relationship with Mark Warburton, who grew up in North London and is a Spurs fan. Warburton took Alex Pritchard on loan at Brentford last season with great success as The Bees surprisingly made the playoff semifinals. Pritchard picked up Brentford's player of the year award for his role in getting them there. Nathan Oduwa was loaned from Spurs to Rangers with Ball, but his loan spell was cut short by Tottenham after limited playing time and success.
Ball spent a good portion of last season on loan at Cambridge United in League Two, but it looks like he will be seeing action at a higher level next year. A loan back to Rangers and Warburton is certainly possible, as is a loan to the English Championship or League One.
Even if he never makes the Spurs first team, Ball is a great example of the benefits of having a strong academy. The Premier League may prove to be a level too high for him, but his encouraging play at Rangers this year will only generate more interest from other clubs in his services on a temporary or permanent basis.