Ward’s way is the model for young hopefuls

Impressive young Pompey star Joel Ward
Impressive young Pompey star Joel Ward
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Joel Ward would have been disappointed to find himself on the bench in the recent win at Leicester.

After starting 13 of the past 14 games in his first full season as a senior pro at Pompey, Ward has been one of the standout players in the club’s unlikely play-off charge.

Would there have been any murmurs of discontent from the young rising star at finding himself on the sidelines?

Would there have been any tantrums at being taken out of the starting 11 for the big clash at the Walkers Stadium?

Not a chance.

Ward, at the age of just 21, has shown himself to be a model pro since making the grade at Fratton Park and has made himself a role model to all other aspiring young players as to how its done.

His consistency this season – and form since being switched to a midfield role – is now seeing him emerge as a real player-of-the-year contender as the campaign moves towards its climax.

Cotterill himself admitted the lad from Emsworth could count himself slightly unfortunate to miss out at Leicester.

That’s quite a statement because it speaks of not only of the manner in which Ward has established himself but also of the way in which he has won over his manager.

There is no doubt Cotterill had major reservations about the ability of the player to feature significantly in pre-season.

The Blues boss harboured doubts about Ward’s strength and whether he was ready for the rugged terrain of the Championship.

Eight months and 38 appearances later he has emphatically answered the question about whether he could survive in one of the most intense and physical leagues in the world.

In doing that, though, Ward has remained one of the most grounded and affable young players you could wish to come across.

In a day when the crimes and misdemeanours of footballers are never far from the headlines, Ward’s conduct has been a refreshing antidote to the behaviour of players at the very highest level who should know better.

He has been a regular at community events throughout the season and has become involved with the work of Faith & Football, helping promote the charity.

It’s never too much trouble to spend time speaking to fans through the pages of The News, either.

Such has been Ward’s upbringing and football education he’s far too grounded to get carried away with the attention, though.

His progress has already been rewarded with a new contract, one that Cotterill believes is reasonable rather than extravagant.

Rather than a summer off, Ward will be sent to a training camp in America to build his strength as Pompey invest in improving his ability to have an impact for his side.

Before that, you wouldn’t back against a few end-of-season plaudits heading his way.

And Ward’s the type of young pro you would love to see it happen to.