Mullins backs Ward for midfield future

Joel Ward
Joel Ward
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Joel Ward can carve out a career as a midfielder.

That’s the verdict of Hayden Mullins, who is convinced the versatile youngster can specialise in the centre of the park.

A natural defender, Ward has indicated he prefers operating at right-back.

The 21-year-old has also featured at left-back and on the right-hand side of midfield on occasions for Pompey this season.

It has been in the centre of the park, though, where he has largely shone in his breakthrough campaign.

Ward was converted to a midfield role at the end of December, when he lined-up alongside Mullins in the 3-3 draw at Leeds.

Ward went on to make 20 appearances in his new-found position last season.

Those eye-catching displays saw him crowned The News/Sports Mail’s player of the season runner-up by fans.

And Mullins, who pipped Ward to that award, feels it could become a permanent job.

He said: ‘Joel has done really well. I think he has done brilliantly.

‘I remember when he stepped in there against Leeds for the first time and did really well.

‘He held his own, battled hard, was good on the ball when it was called for and didn’t look out of place. Since then he has gone on from strength-to-strength.

‘Initially, I was surprised, to be fair. But Wardy’s a good player with a good head on him and thinks about the game.

‘He can play football, has a good engine and has got a lot of energy.

‘He’s one of those players who can play in a variety of positions such as wide right, right-back, centre-back and now, obviously, he has added midfield to the bow.

‘Maybe midfield could be his permanent position if he wants to play there and works hard at it.

‘He could definitely make a living out of it.’

Ward made 46 appearances and scored three goals this season. Only Jamie Ashdown, Mullins and David Nugent featured more.

It is testament to the fitness levels and consistency of a player marking his maiden first-team campaign at Pompey.

He was also rewarded with a new contract. Now Ward has gone to America for a month for specialist strength-and-conditioning work.

And Mullins tips even better times ahead for the Emsworth youngster.

He added: ‘I am sure in years to come Wardy will be a regular for Portsmouth. He is one everyone thinks highly of and deserves to do well through all the hard work he puts in.

‘What happens is down to him and I think he will be here for a number of years.

‘This season there has been a position we have needed to fill in the centre of midfield.

‘He stepped up and did really well and long may that continue.’