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Ward's green ambition

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Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward. Photo: Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward. Photo: Sportsfile

Stephen Ward. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Stephen Ward. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

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Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward. Photo: Sportsfile

IT'S a year to the day today of an anniversary which still brings recrimination, not celebration.

Thursday, June 14, 2012, was the day that Spain tore into Ireland in Gdansk and tore apart any lasting hope of the Irish side emerging from Euro 2012 with any positives, those goals from Fernando Torres, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas burning a heavy defeat into the psyche of the Irish side.

A year on and Spain remain largely unchanged, but Ireland have a new look to their team; of the team which played that day, two (Shay Given and Damien Duff) have retired. Two others, Keith Andrews and Stephen Ward, have fallen way down the pecking order.

Injury prevented Andrews from hooking up with the squad for recent games, but even if he had been available to play, his place in the squad was already under intense pressure from the arrival of a new batch of midfielders like Jeff Hendrick, Wes Hoolahan and Stephen Quinn.

Ward has simply been axed from the squad and for the man who was aged 26 before he got his international debut, being dropped from the team (in the aftermath of our 6-1 defeat to Germany) and then the squad overall (for the World Cup games against Sweden and Austria and also the recent four-game international programme) was hard to take, but also expected given his troubles at club level, as Wolves were demoted to England's third tier.

A move away from Wolves over the summer would help Ward reclaim his place in the squad, but for now, the former Bohemians man accepts his fate, while also insisting that he will be back.

"I can't complain about the way it's happened for me, the manager has made his decision for what he feels will benefit the team," Ward told The Herald, explaining that he didn't get a 'break-up' call or text from the Ireland manager.

"I respect the way the manager works. I was very disappointed to not make the last couple of squads, but you don't get a phone call, you don't get a call and a pat on the back every time you are in the squad and you don't get a message to say you're out of the squad, it's the way international football works.

"Looking at it from the outside, we were obviously having a hard season with Wolves and things weren't going well for us as a team or a group of players, the manager felt he needed to freshen things up and brought in some new players for the last couple of games.

"He was probably right and I feel I needed the summer to clear my head, it was a hard season with Ireland, with Wolves last season and it was good for me to get a break and get the head clear," added Ward.

"But if I can get playing again next year at a high level, I feel I can show the manager what I can do, the ability I have was enough for me to get into the squad and the team in the past and get back my place in the squad. It's definitely an ambition of mine to get back into the squad.

"I watched all of the games in the last couple of weeks, apart from the Spain game, I wasn't able to get to see that one and I was delighted to see the lads do so well.

"We are in a good position in the group now as a team and hopefully I can do what I can to get back in there," he said.

Ward's club future is shrouded in doubt. Now a League One club operating off a budget fit for the third division, Wolves will make changes under new manager Kenny Jackett and Ward is one of those expected to leave.

"There are a few bits of interest, but it wouldn't be right for me to come out and start making comments about leaving, I haven't even met our new manager yet," he said.

"The vibes coming out of the club seem to be that players will be moving on in the next transfer window, that's probably inevitable given our situation, but players will have to move out before others can come into the club.

"Everything is up in the air until the new manager decides who to move on and who to keep. I have heard bits and pieces, but until the club come to me and speak to me about their plans for me, it would be disrespectful of me to talk about leaving.

 

POSSIBILITIES

"We are due back in nine days' time for pre-season, so I will know more then, we are due back in on Monday week. If something does come up, I will look at all possibilities.

"On a personal level, and with respect for the position Wolves are in, I need to be playing at a higher level and if something comes along, I will consider it, but I am aware that I am under contract to Wolves, I have a lot of time for the club, so I can't come out and demand to leave. And if I am still a Wolves player at the start of next season, so be it, but if an opportunity came to move on and get back to the level I had been at, I would have to consider that at least.

"Some people do need a fresh start, I feel I have been a very good servant to the club in the years I have been there. Every person at the club feels for what has happened, relegation two years in a row, the fans feel it, but the players feel it too.

"It's a new start for the club with a new manager coming in and the hope is that Wolves can get straight back into the Championship next season and build from there," added Ward.

"For me, the aim thoug,h is to get back into the Irish squad. I want to wear that green shirt again."


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