We were recently asked by Crystal Palace fanzine, FIVE YEAR PLAN FANZINE, to write a bit for Palace fans about their new acquisition, former Pompey defender/midfielder Joel Ward.
Check it out below…..
It may have taken him a while to be given a chance at Fratton Park, due to the big-name players at the time, and the chopping and changing of management and ownership, but Joel Ward has become a massive success at Portsmouth, and I have no doubt he will do the same at Crystal Palace.
Joel Ward has grown up over the last 22-years as a Pompey fan and after coming through the ranks and graduating from the academy, the Emsworth lad finally made it in to the Portsmouth first-team.
Having been loaned out to Bournemouth for the 2008/09 season, many fans first saw Ward hit the Fratton Park scene when he made his first-team debut – starting in defence along with Anthony Vanden Borre, Nadir Belhadj and Younes Kaboul – playing a full 90-minutes against Hereford United in the Carling Cup.
Ward’s debut came under his former academy manager, Paul Hart, but failed to impress Hart enough to establish himself in the side again until after Hart’s dismissal.
The youngster didn’t really see himself in the side for the rest of the season and had to settle for just three more appearances – this time in the Premier League under new boss Avram Grant as Pompey were relegated from the top flight.
Solid displays against Wigan, Aston Villa and Wolves had all Pompey fans starting to wonder who this talent was, but it wasn’t until the following season (2010/11) when Ward flourished.
Under yet another new manager, Steve Cotterill, Ward was tested straight from the start of the season at right-back – establishing himself as a regular first-team player and making 46 appearances.
Ward was shifted from right-back to the centre of defence and even pushed in to midfield. His passion and dedication, as well as being a fan favourite and a home grown player, quickly made Joel Ward a big success at Fratton Park.
He netted three times during the season – twice against Doncaster Rovers both home and away, and an opener against Leeds United, but still being a young player, Ward struggled with the physical side of the game.
The 22-year-old was sent to America ahead of pre-season last summer as part of strength and conditioning training, and Ward came back looking twice the size – and twice the player!
Having already won over the hearts of many Pompey fans, Ward’s performances just kept improving, and even when Cotterill departed and was replaced by Michael Appleton, Ward still established himself as a regular and continued from strength to strength.
Despite starting his career as a right-back, Ward played the majority of this season as a central midfielder, even moving across to a right winger on the odd occasion, and also slotting back to all positions of defence when required.
There is no doubting that Ward has an eye for goal but there is one single goal that has written his name in to the history books and will forever be remembered by Pompey fans.
Ward scored a late equaliser against our South-Coast rivals Southampton back in December of this season, pinching a 1-1 draw and kissing the badge as he celebrated with the fans.
He has proven himself to be a very versatile player, and although I believe Crystal Palace bought him as a right-back, his strengths in midfield are something to be admired – comparisons could be made with Manchester United and England star Phil Jones.
Ward still has a long way to go and there are still many improvements to be made, but he is a great young player who cares more about the game and the fans rather than money – something that is a rarity among modern footballers.
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