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Sunday 23 October 2016

Ward aiming to 'turn the screw' on O'Neill in bid for Ireland's call

Published 05/06/2015 | 02:30

Stephen Ward is hoping to be in contention for Ireland's clash with Scotland
Stephen Ward is hoping to be in contention for Ireland's clash with Scotland

Burnley defender Stephen Ward has already made an impression on Ireland boss Martin O'Neill and is hoping to give the manager a "headache" when it comes to selection for the critical Scotland clash next Saturday.

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Although the manager maintained his assertion that Robbie Brady "did very well" against Poland, despite a catastrophic error in the build-up to the visitors' goal, he has been impressed by Ward, who would have started were it not for the hairline fracture in his ankle.

Ward played 45 minutes yesterday against Notrthern Ireland to confirm his own impression of a seamless month since returning to action, albeit in vain as Sean Dyche's side plunged through the Premier League trap door.

As he switches his focus to international matters, it would seem that one of the first items on the manager's agenda against the Scots will be to play his players in their correct position.

Whether Ward is the preferred option remains a matter for contentious debate amongst supporters; the decision will be based on his time here and O'Neill's attention has certainly been roused.

"Stephen has been excellent," said the boss. "I didn't really know him before here. he's keen, he's well."

For his part, the erstwhile Bohemians front man is just content to be fit enough to challenge for a place and he would never assume to be a primary candidate.

"It's been a tough year with the injury. To be honest I've probably only felt myself in the last four or five weeks of the season. It took a lot longer to get myself up to speed.

"The break was healed but it just took that bit longer, there was a bit of complication with the screws but I'm fine now.

"If I can get a run-out over the next couple of games I can give the manager a headache.

"We've got a good squad here and the best thing about it is everyone is in it together, no matter who plays. Everyone wants to work hard and push each other.

"Whoever goes out there on the day, everyone will be behind them. Obviously, Brady is a great option for us there as well. We feel we owe Scotland one and with the crowd behind us we can do it."

Irish Independent

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