Ward: A Game We Need to Win
Thursday, 20th Sep 2018 17:45
With Town still at the bottom of the Championship table after eight matches, midfielder Grant Ward unsurprisingly believes Saturday’s visit of Bolton to Portman Road is a game they need to win.
The last thing anyone with connections to the club wants to see is the 15th-placed Trotters, unbeaten in four away games before Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough, heading home with something – and Town’s wait for their first win of the season extending to 10 games in all competitions.
Ward said: “I’d say we need to win. Hopefully, if we go out there and perform like I know we can, we will. All the teams in this league are good teams but we need to get points, which means we need to start winning games as soon as possible.”
Although the Blues have an unbeaten home record, thanks to draws against Blackburn, Aston Villa, Norwich and Brentford, manager Paul Hurst is still waiting for his first victory since taking charge in the summer following the departure of Mick McCarthy.
But Ward believes Hurst is handling the situation well, adding: “He’s coping fine. He looks just normal, the same as the first day we met him, and doesn’t look like someone who is under pressure or anything, so that’s good.
“It’s difficult for him at the minute, as he wants to get that first win every bit as much as we do. Hopefully, in the games coming up, we can get some wins and move away from the bottom of the table.”
Ward believes his attributes as a player are a good fit with Hurst’s philosophy as a manager, including his preference to play a pressing game high up the pitch and the extra work with weights in the gymnasium that form part of the new fitness regime.
The ex-Spurs player explained: “A lot of teams are playing this way, including a lot of the big teams in the Premier League.
“They press because they know that if they can win the ball high up the pitch they have a good chance of scoring. It’s something I’ve been used to growing up, so for me personally I think I’m suited to the press.
“What he’s trying to do is a lot of the stuff that I’ve been taught to do anyway, so I feel that if I’m given a run of games I’d fit into it.
“The main difference between training now and last season, I would say, is that we’re doing a lot more possession-type work, which I’m used to as well, through things like smaller boxes and small-sided games that should help us out on the pitch in games when we are in tight areas.”
The Town players are also putting in double sessions each Tuesday and Thursday. “It’s double sessions, not extra training, because one of them is in the gym working on weights in the afternoon,” he added.
“It’s hard work but hopefully at the end of it we’re going to be fitter. I already feel I’m fitter and in the last game against Brentford I felt I could still run at the end, so that made me feel good.
“We did gym sessions last season but it was more a case of doing it ourselves. I’d go in there with a few other players and we’d do our own gym tests. It’s more structured now and we’re in two groups. It’s all on the board and they’ll be watching you.
“We’ve got a lot of new equipment. Even for training we wear these GPS heart rate monitors and they’re watching on an iPad, while you’re out there, so they can see how hard you’re working, how far you run and things like that.
“They can monitor everyone’s load to make sure we are all roughly doing the same amount or if anyone has to do a bit extra.
“We do a few runs after a training session – I’m talking about preparation for Saturday games – and some players might have to do a bit more running, while others can do a bit less.”
After each game the unused substitutes are put through their paces by fitness coach Nathan Winder, who arrived at the club soon after Hurst’s appointment, and Ward laughed: “That can be harder than playing in the match.
“It’s a bit daunting when you go into the dressing room before a game and you see all the weights in the middle of the changing room. You know that’s for the people afterwards, jumps and weights.
“It’s a tough gig that but apparently it’s going to benefit us all in the long run – at least that’s what Nathan said!”
Only Birmingham have scored fewer goals that Town in the Championship this season. “A lack of goals has been a bit of an issue,” Ward conceded, “but I think the boys up front have been playing well and hopefully they will get a few more for us this season.
“Kayden [Jackson] had a good game the other night against Brentford. He scored and I thought he looked sharp. Give them a few more games and a few more minutes, and they will have adapted to this league and be scoring goals on a more regular basis.
“I enjoyed the game on Tuesday. I started the second half on the left and then I switched over to the right a few times and even went back in the middle for a bit.
“I enjoy the moving around because I think it can unsettle the other team a bit if you do that and I also thought we looked better for it. Ideally, I’d like a run in the team and sometimes you need that, playing every week, to get a run of form.
“I’m not really fussed where I play. As long I’m playing I’ll be happy – but I do like to have more of an attacking role, either in the middle of a midfield three, because it allows one of us to be more attacking, or on the flanks coming inside or going outside. I do enjoy both.”
Reminded that he played as a right wing-back on a couple of occasions towards the end of last season under Bryan Klug’s temporary management, Ward replied: “I don’t mind playing there. I played there, I think, when I was a scholar at Tottenham [also under Klug] so I’m used to that position as well.
“But it’s probably not one I’d want to play too often. I got sent off when I was playing there against Aston Villa on the final day of last season.
“When I watched it back in slow motion it didn’t look the best. But even the ref said ‘I know what you were trying to do and didn’t see him’ and then he pulled out the red card, so it doesn’t really matter.
“I think people knew there was no malice in what I did but it was just disappointing because it meant I missed the first game of the season as well. Hopefully that’s my first and last red card.”
Photo: Action Images
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