Sunday 18 February 2018

No better solution to pain of Wolves' relegation than European championships, enthuses Ward

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI last week opined that the Wolves players in his squad might be suffering mentally from their relegation from the Premier League, but Stephen Ward disagrees.

Unlike the players at Bolton and Blackburn, those at Molineux knew their fate a long time ago.

Ward, Kevin Doyle, Kevin Foley and Stephen Hunt made peace with their demotion and began to look towards the European Championships.

"It's been a tough, gruelling season. Playing a lot of games when you're down at the bottom of the league can take a lot of out of you, but personally I feel fine. I feel as fit as I did during the season," said Ward.

"For us, it's been strange couple of weeks. We've been down for a while and we've had time to get over it.

"If it happened on the last day, it would be a lot tougher coming in here. We knew (the) writing was on the wall for two or three weeks back, we've had time to dwell on it.

"There's no better solution to it than coming in here, meeting up, put a smile back on the lads' faces.

"If we were dwelling on it during the summer, it would be upsetting, but having the Euros is a great distraction.

"We were all devastated -- the club and players. But we're big enough and strong enough to get over it.

"I wouldn't say there is any problem getting over it, especially meeting here this week."

One of only two outfield players to have played every minute of every Premier League game this season -- along with Fulham's Brede Hangeland -- Ward has had quite a 12 months, despite his club's woes.

The left-back made his international debut against Northern Ireland a year ago yesterday and has made the position his own, seeing off Irish legend Kevin Kilbane in the process.

"I couldn't have come in at a better time, the way the lads were playing in the final qualifying games for the championship," he said.

"I've met Kevin a few times. He's a gentleman, always wished me the best of luck.

"I've taken over from a legend, but the way he's been around, having a word in my ear, has been great for me, it shows you what a gentleman he is."

Ward had to wait his turn to get a call-up, but his patience has been rewarded by Giovanni Trapattoni and is an example to those out of favour with the Italian.

"I was playing every week Premier League and I wasn't getting in," the former Bohemians man explained.

"But hand on heart, I never let it affect me. It was tough seeing the lads at Wolves gong away at times. You wanted to be involved.

"The manager picks the squad and you have to accept it. I had to make sure I was playing for my club because that was the only way I was going to get my chance to get in."

He got it, he took it and now he is going to the Euros as starting left-full. A forgettable season could soon become a lot more memorable.

Irish Independent

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