Tuesday 20 March 2018

Stephen Ward agrees new deal with Burnley

Stephen Ward started all but one of Burnley's Premier League games last season
Stephen Ward started all but one of Burnley's Premier League games last season

Republic of Ireland international Stephen Ward has penned a contract extension with Premier League club Burnley.

The 31-year-old, who scored during the Clarets' shock 3-2 win at champions Chelsea on Saturday, was due to be a free agent at the end of this season but is now under contract until the summer of 2019, with the option of a further 12 months on top of that.

Ward joined Burnley from Wolves in the summer of 2014 ahead of their new Premier League campaign and has nailed down a regular spot at left-back for Sean Dyche's side.

"It's great and long may it continue," Ward said of playing at Turf Moor.

"I'm delighted to have signed. It's just great to be part of a club like this at the minute and hopefully we can have another successful season."

Ward only made nine top-flight appearances in his first season at the club due to injury, but he became a frequent fixture in Dyche's starting line-up towards the second half of their promotion season in 2015-16 when Ben Mee moved inside to partner Michael Keane.

Last season Ward started all but one of Burnley's Premier League games, more than anyone else in Dyche's squad.

Meanwhile, Dyche feels Belgian playmaker Steven Defour is fitter and more equipped for life in the Premier League after a full pre-season with the club.

Twelve months ago the Clarets seemed to have pulled off a significant coup when they signed Defour, who was once admired by Manchester United, from Anderlecht upon their return to the top flight.

However, despite showing glimpses of his quality, Defour only made 16 Premier League starts, only one of which came after January, when the midfielder had offered no guarantees about his long-term future at Turf Moor.

The 29-year-old Belgium international has remained in Lancashire, though, and on Saturday he starred in a shock 3-2 win over champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

In quotes published in the Lancashire Telegraph, Dyche said after the win: "There's no guarantees but he looks like he's fitter, he's adapted better, he understands the tempo of the game better and that it's physically demanding, particularly here; they've got some very powerful players, they're a big, athletic side.

"We know he can play, his ball for the goal is absolutely fantastic, so we know that. I think he's mentally adapting as well.

"Even with all his experience the Premier League is a different animal. We've all seen it with players coming to the Premier League, some adapt quicker but some it takes time, so we're hoping he continues building on his own performances and that's effective for us.

"The challenge is right there. It was tough last season, over the summer you get a break and a chance to look at things. He's taken it on."

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