Ward: I've No Plans to Retire Yet and I'd Like to Stay at Town
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 11:55
Stephen Ward has expressed his desire to carry on playing, regardless of whether he is offered the opportunity to continue his career with Town when his current contract expires at the end of the season.
With manager Paul Cook promising a summer of change, it is abundantly clear that a number of the club’s players will be departing for pastures new.
Ward, who will turn 36 in August, only agreed a 12-month deal with previous boss Paul Lambert last year - with the club having an option for a further season - and it remains to be seen whether he will be part of Cook’s plans going forward.
However, even if he is not offered a new deal, the former Wolves, Stoke and Burnley defender has no plans to hang up his boots just yet and will instead look for a new club where he will play for at least another season before looking to a non-playing future in the game.
Asked about his future, Ward said: “To be honest I don’t think that far ahead. At this stage of the season I’m really just concentrating – as clichéd as it sounds – on the next game on Tuesday night at Northampton. My future and what I do next season will come in the summer when this season finishes.
“Until the last whistle goes on the last day of the season I just want to concentrate on playing, doing well for the team, hopefully helping us to get into the play-offs and then pushing to get us to Wembley.
“It all starts tomorrow night and we know that we go there on the back of a good performance on Saturday. We didn’t get the win but we got the reaction and the performance from the lads that was needed.
“I thought we did that for long spells in the game and we now need to put that together tomorrow with a performance and a result.
“Would I like to stay? Of course I would and I think I’ve been fit and available for most games this season, apart from two or three earlier in the season when I had an injury.
“I feel good and I feel like I’m still in good shape so, yes, in the long-term of course I want to keep playing. Short-term, let’s hope we get a result tomorrow night.
“My plan when I do eventually retire is to stay in the game and I’m currently doing my coaching badges. When you live and breathe football, and you’ve been it for so many years, I think it’s difficult to move into something else.
“Hopefully, I’ll stay in the game in some capacity, but I’d like to play on for another year. It has been big this year without any crowds and I think I would just love to play another season where you have that feeling of crowds coming to games and that real atmosphere back.”
Ward agreed that Town have underachieved this season. They were seen as one of the pre-season favourites to win automatic promotion back to the Championship and when they started the campaign with a six-game unbeaten league run, accumulating an impressive 16 points from a possible 18, it seemed the bookmakers’ vision was spot-on.
However, as things stand, Town’s hopes of promotion depend on them first of all qualifying for the play-offs. They are currently ninth in the table, four points adrift with five games left to play, so there is little or no margin for error between now and the end of the season.
Asked if the squad had underperformed, Ward replied: “We know we should be in a better position than we are but our end goal still isn’t out of our hands. Until it’s mathematically impossible for us to get into the play-offs – and then get promoted – I think we should work hard to achieve it.
“We will reflect if the position changes but for the time being we must believe and be as positive as we can. In this dressing room we’ve got a really great group of lads and some really talented players.
“At the minute we are under-achieving in terms of where we should be and where we want to be, but between now and the end of the season we’ll see what happens. We need to still believe that we can get into the play-offs and make a push for it.”
With skipper Luke Chambers relegated to the bench for Saturday’s goalless draw at Charlton, manager Cook turned instead to Ward to captain the side, which clearly meant a lot to him. “It’s an honour any time you captain a club like Ipswich,” he said.
“We’ve got a long-standing captain here, who has been brilliant again this season and been brilliant for the club for many years. Obviously, when he wasn’t on the pitch on Saturday it was an honour to wear the armband.
“Any time in your career when you captain a club, especially a club of the status of this one, you take real pride in it.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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