Cruel summer ahead for Ward

A dejected Joel Ward during last summer's pre-season tour of north America

A dejected Joel Ward during last summer's pre-season tour of north America

Marc McNulty. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Joel Ward can wave goodbye to any plans he had for a lazy summer after boss Steve Cotterill confirmed he would be sending the youngster to America to beef him up a bit.

Ward’s progress has been remarkable this season, starting the campaign as a fringe player who had yet to convince the manager of his worth and ending the term as one of the first names on the teamsheet.

But while Cotterill has been delighted with the Emsworth-born youngster’s progress, the Blues boss is prepared to be cruel to be kind to see an even better player in 2011-12.

And that will mean a strict four-week training camp in the USA for Ward while most of his team-mates put their feet up after a long campaign.

Cotterill has mooted the idea for a few weeks but has now confirmed his plans for Ward.

Cotterill said: ‘While he is 21, Joel is still a young 21 for me.

‘He’s still maturing bodily and it might still be a couple of years before he is finished.

‘So we have this American month we are going to send him on.

‘He’s the guinea pig! He will have two weeks off at the end of the season.

‘Then he’ll go for a month and then he’ll have a week off.

‘He will, hopefully, be really beefed up leg-wise by the end of it.

‘That will be a really cruel month for Joel in the summer.

‘But I think, in the end, that will give him the strength to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday all the time.’

Ward got a taste of American pain last summer with the club’s pre-season hike around the USA and Canada.

But this trip will be rather more tailor-made to aid his physical development, rather than sitting around in airports.

And Cotterill thinks it will see a new-look Ward in time for next season.

He said: ‘It’s going to be hectic and he’ll have a busy time. They’ll do everything from building him up, massaging him, feeding him and resting him.

‘Hopefully the America trip will strengthen up his bottom half. He has good strength but his calves and thighs need to be stronger.

‘The lads give him a bit of ribbing about it from time to time. Maybe they won’t next season.’

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