Ward: It Might Be New For Some of the Lads But I've Pretty Much Seen It All
Monday, 19th Apr 2021 13:13
Stephen Ward has pretty much seen and done it all during his time in football, so the recent takeover and manager Paul Cook’s warning that there will be a number of personnel changes in the summer was really nothing new to the Irishman.
Referring to the strong message delivered by Cook in the wake of last week’s 3-0 defeat to lowly Wimbledon, when he read his players the riot act and put a question mark against several of them staying at Portman Road beyond the end of the season, Ward took it all in his stride.
The 35-year-old defender said: “You take it on the chin because it is what it is. We understand, as a group of players, that we’re not in the position we want to be in.
“It’s not really something that came as a surprise. The manager believes we shouldn’t be where we are and we feel exactly the same. It’s not a problem.
“When he’s with us and talks to us he tells us what he expects of us and it’s the same as we should be expecting of ourselves.
“It hasn’t gone the way we would have liked but as a group of staff and players we’re all in it together. We’re all looking forward to the game tomorrow night at Northampton.
“On Saturday at Charlton we got the reaction we wanted after the defeat at Wimbledon last Tuesday.
“It felt like we had regrouped and had some good conversations together then went out and put in a much, much better performance. We want to do that again at Northampton.”
Asked what Cook has been like to play under, Ward added: “He’s been good. He’s obviously very enthusiastic and wants to do well, plus he also has a good work ethic.
“It can be difficult when a new manager comes in because they want to get their own ideas across and he’s done that. We’ve worked hard on the training pitch but unfortunately we haven’t picked up the results that we would have liked.
“Going forward, though, we still believe we can get in the play-offs and he has given us that belief. He has been good to work for so far and hopefully we can pick up a few results before the end of the season and hopefully get into the play-offs.
“It’s only natural that a new manager comes in, has his preferred style of play and looks for the type of players he wants to do that. As a player you just need to focus on getting on the same page as the manager to try to get into his team.
“He is sure to bring in his types of players in the summer, meaning players will stay and players will go, but that’s natural and it’s normal at every club every season.
“In the last few weeks we have been working really hard on the training pitch to really nail down how the manager wants to play, how he wants us to move the ball and how he wants us to attack and defend.
“There were some real glimpses of that on Saturday so hopefully we can continue to progress at Northampton tomorrow and then over the remaining games of the season.”
Cook likes his full-backs to get forward whenever possible and Ward continued: “It felt like we had more freedom to get forward at Charlton. When the manager first came in we’d had a few injuries and we were playing a way that suited the players we had available.
“It wasn’t exactly the way he wanted us to play but over the last few weeks we’ve been starting to get it together. Nearly everyone is fit and healthy now and Saturday’s performance was really encouraging.
“Going forward it will be his mantra as to how he wants us to play and it’s up to us to hopefully get some results before the end of the season.”
Ward has started 27 of Town’s 41 league games this season and appeared as a substitute in one other, meaning he is leading the way in his tussle to be first choice left-back with Myles Kenlock, who has featured in 14 from the start and a further four from the bench.
“Myles is a good young lad and a good player,” Ward said. “I’ve enjoyed the competition between us for a place in the first team and we have a good relationship both on and off the pitch. Whichever one of us plays it’s absolutely fine.
“If I play he’s great with me and if he plays I’m great with him. He’s a very good player and I’ve enjoyed not only playing with him but getting to know him as a person too. Around the training ground he’s a really good lad as well.”
Ward was asked if he felt it well-nigh impossible to play every game this season and he responded: “Touch wood, I’ve felt fit and healthy all season, other than when I missed a few games through injury.
“With the way it is this season I would say it is pretty much impossible for anyone to play every game. That applies even in the Premier League because there are so many games to be fitted in.
“There have been very few what I would call normal training weeks because of midweek games, and of course we can’t forget the impact that Covid has had as well.
“I’d say it is impossible for players to play every game and we’re lucky that we’ve had players to step in when necessary and play their part.
“Every single one of us is needed and when you look across the league you can see how far squads have been stretched. I’ll admit it’s also tough to play every game at my age but I’ve kept on top of things, looking after my body and making sure I’ve rested well in between the games. Thankfully, I still feel good.
“As for the takeover, you’d have to ask the other lads how it has affected them but I’ve been around the game for a long time and I’ve pretty much seen it all – takeovers, managers coming and going etc.
“It might be new for some of the lads here but it’s not the same for me. I just carry on training and look forward to playing.
“At my age and at this stage of my career every game is a bonus. I just want to keep going and playing so I just get on with my job.”
Meanwhile, Ward is one of many people in football to give the thumbs-down to controversial new plans for a breakaway European Super League, with England’s so-called Big Six of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal all agreeing to join.
He said: “I’ve played in the Premier League, maybe not at the level of those teams, but it’s disappointing and scary really.
“When we got promoted to the Premier League at Wolves and Burnley it was the games against those clubs – and visiting their stadiums – that we looked forward to the most.
“So will the value of the games against them diminish because they will be concentrating on a midweek game against another super power?
“Hopefully, it won’t happen, but it will eventually come down to the money and what that says. If the biggest clubs leave the Premier League, of course, the clubs that are left behind will have a better chance of winning it, but they will miss playing against the big boys.
“There are a lot of conversations to take place before anything is decided but I would like to see it remain as it is, not just the Premier League but all the others as well and not forgetting the domestic cup competitions.”
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