Ward will come back stronger than ever

110960_LEICESTER_V_PFC_19/03/11''Joel Ward (left) Leicester City V Portsmouth Football Club at the Walkers Stadium, Leicester. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (110960-826)
110960_LEICESTER_V_PFC_19/03/11''Joel Ward (left) Leicester City V Portsmouth Football Club at the Walkers Stadium, Leicester. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (110960-826)
Milan Lalkovic in pre-season action against the Hawks

Pompey winger set for return against Walsall

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Steve Cotterill is convinced find-of-the-season Joel Ward will come back an even better player from his American training camp.

The 21-year-old headed for California just over a week ago to attend a strength and conditioning programme.

Cotterill believes the month-long stay will ensure Ward continues his impressive development.

The home-grown talent will follow a rigorous programme designed to build up his leg muscles.

It is part of the versatile performer’s make-up Pompey have previously been unable to focus on while the season has been in full flow.

And Cotterill is confident Ward will come back with added pace and power to his game.

He said: ‘It is very difficult for Joel to strengthen his legs up when he is using them running on match days.

‘In the week he can strengthen his top half, which he has done. But he cannot do his legs.

‘You see, if he does weights he has got no legs left for the Saturday and it would affect his game.

‘We couldn’t risk that, so he has to do this at the end of the season.

‘What this will do is make Joel quicker and have more power.

‘He’s not a slouch as it is, but I would not call him a sprinter.

‘Having that pace and power can only help his game, it cannot do him any harm whatsoever.

‘You look at situations where he is playing at the back in one v one situations and I think he needs to be better.

‘I think he found it a problem earlier in the season and this training will help him cope. He does not get caught out when he is in the middle of the park because he is not up against direct wingers. Joel has gone to a training centre, it’s a proper place.

“They have all the technology and equipment, it’s America isn’t it, it’s first class.

“Chris Neville (Pompey’s fitness coach) has spoken to him and he is getting on well out there.’

Ward enjoyed an outstanding maiden season of regular first-team football.

He amassed 46 appearances, 36 of them starts, as he emerged as one of the surprise hits of the campaign.

Those impressive displays helped earned him runner-up in the The News/Sports Mail’s Pompey player of the season.

Yet Cotterill believes the highly-regarded youngster can get even better.

And he expects him to keep on blossoming.

He added: ‘Joel’s a great kid, he has come on a million miles from where he was pre-season last year.

‘He was a rabbit caught in the headlights when I first got here but has grown up a lot.

‘We have a good, young player in our squad and I’m looking for him to keep on improving.’