Friday 24 November 2017

Stephen Ward targets Euros to banish relegation blues

Stephen Ward: Hopeful
Stephen Ward: Hopeful
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THERE weren't many success stories in Wolves' miserable season, but having played in every minute of the midlanders' Premier League campaign, Stephen Ward can reflect on his efforts with some pride.

That's not to say the Ireland left- back has not been left devastated by relegation, but now that the reality has sunk in, the Portmarnock native is starting to look towards the European Championships knowing that he is in form.

"No matter what happened during the season, you would want to leave that behind you and have a clear mind and there isn't anything better than going away to a major championships," he said at the EFlow FAI Summer Soccer Schools launch yesterday.

"On a personal level, I feel I've had a good season, but it has been disappointing. We feel as if we have let ourselves down and let the club down for being in this situation. It (the Euros) is a chance to get the smiles back on our faces."

Despite playing so much high- level football, Ward is confident that he will still be fresh come kick-off on June 10. "The manager asked me did I want to relax because of the European Championships coming up, but it would be a nice milestone to play every minute of every game," he said.

"I have monitored my training over the last couple of weeks, because I've played all the games and the Euros are coming up, so I'm just looking after myself a bit better. If I needed a day of rest I just stayed in and looked after myself. I am feeling fresh."

Whether the former Bohemians player will remain at Molineux next season remains to be seen -- he's not angling for a move from the club who gave him his chance in England, but says if an offer came in and was accepted, he would have to consider it.

"There is speculation about people leaving and so forth, but as players, a lot of us are still in contract and we feel that we have a bit of a debt to Wolves," he said. "I would never talk about leaving unless they came to me and said someone had put in an offer. For the moment, I'm happy there. I'm disappointed but if we can keep the core of the squad together, we can come straight back up."

First comes the small matter of Ireland's first major tournament in a decade and Ward is one of those as good as guaranteed a place on the plane and he's confident that Ireland can make an impact on the big stage.

"I think we can shock a lot of people," Ward said. "I don't think many people will give us a chance of getting out of the group, but that will suit us.

"The first game is going to be vital, but if we're still in it coming into the Italy game, I think we'll have a great chance of progressing.

"You just hope to go as far as possible, I think getting out of the group would be a massive achievement."

Irish Independent

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