Fans’ favourite back and ‘stronger than ever’

Joel Ward has benefited from his tough summer in America

Joel Ward has benefited from his tough summer in America

Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

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New-look Joel Ward insists he’ll be a more powerful Championship performer after his gruelling summer boot camp.

The 21-year-old has recently returned from 28 days in Los Angeles at the highly-regarded Athletes Performance training facility.

While his Blues team-mates sunned themselves on beaches and took in rounds of golf, Ward has been on a rigorous strength and conditioning programme.

Today he returned for pre-season, with players undergoing two days of fitness testing ahead of the start of full training on Monday.

The Emsworth youngster believes he has come back from America a very different player.

Ward broke into the Pompey first team last season and enjoyed a superb debut campaign.

But boss Steve Cotterill was keen for him to go Stateside and improve his strength.

Ward is adamant he has now bulked up, adding more pace and power to his physique.

And he is relishing the opportunity to show what he can do.

Ward said: ‘America was all about improving me as a player.

‘I had to train really hard but it was definitely beneficial. I can see and feel the difference.

‘The idea was to increase power and strength in my legs as well as building up my body.

‘I have to say, I feel a lot more solid. I’ve bulked up a little bit and put on a bit of weight.

‘Those sort of developments have given me more power. They have made me a little bit quicker and a little bit stronger.

‘That will definitely help when it gets physical on the pitch and hopefully will give me that extra fitness to perform.

‘I think it will give me a bit more of an edge.

‘I can’t speak highly enough of the coaches out there and the facilities, they were absolutely fantastic.

‘Now I feel good and ready to go. I can’t wait to get back out there and show what I can do.’

At least Ward managed to eventually enjoy nine days off this summer to savour a holiday.

He returned from the Costa Brava with his family earlier this week fully refreshed and raring to go.

The versatile performer is well behind his team-mates in terms of days off since the end of last season.

But that’s the way he prefers it.

Ward added: ‘I’ve had a little bit of rest in Spain with my family. It was a chance for some active rest.

‘I cannot wait to get back in training, though.

‘I’ve missed it all, to be honest. I enjoy it keeping me busy and active, I get bored otherwise.

‘I love a bit of golf, fishing, seeing friends and spending time down at my church for different events.

‘But football is what I live for and what I want to do.’

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