AS HE LOOKS forward to the Euro 2012 finals while holding the proud record of having played in every minute of every game in the Premier League this season, Stephen Ward believes that he owes his success to his start in the League of Ireland with Bohemians.
Ward had three seasons with Bohs before his move to Wolves in January 2007 and while the club has moved on since Ward's time -- none of his team-mates are still at the club -- he still retains an affection for the Gypsies, and also stays in contact with old pals, as he was in Dublin yesterday to attend the wedding of former Bohs team-mate Aidan O'Keeffe.
"I don't think I'd be around today if I hadn't started in the eircom League," Ward said at the launch of the eFlow FAI Summer Soccer Schools scheme. "I don't know if I'd have adapted to it over in England if I'd gone over at 15 or 16, being away from home.
"The league here definitely gave me some good schooling before I went away so when I did go, it helped me progress quicker than if I'd gone as a young lad.
"Reserve team football can be good over there but when you're playing against people who are looking for the three points or their win bonus, it makes a massive difference. I went from playing in school to playing against grown men and it helped me, it was the best route I could have taken because I don't know how I'd have reacted to leaving home at 16."