Palace switch could put Ward ‘right back’ where he belongs

Joel Ward celebrates his equaliser in this season's south coast derby at Fratton Park with Marko Futacs
Joel Ward celebrates his equaliser in this season's south coast derby at Fratton Park with Marko Futacs
Pompey lost to Charlton on a frustrating day at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

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For Joel Ward it is a new start – and the chance to finally fulfil his desire to carve out a career at right-back.

The Emsworth youngster has brought to an end 14 years at Pompey with a switch to Crystal Palace.

It represents a sad farewell, yet one driven by necessity for both player and club as they head in different directions.

The indications are Ward will replace in-demand Nathaniel Clyne at right-back for the Eagles.

Coveted by a number of Premier League clubs, Clyne is out of contract and expected to leave Selhurst Park this summer.

That anticipated scenario has resulted in his spot being earmarked for the 22-year-old newcomer.

During the past two seasons, Ward has established himself as a genuine utility man at Fratton Park amid good reviews.

It’s a versatility which has seen him operate in six different positions and chalk up 96 appearances and six goals for the Blues.

For Ward, though, right-back has always been his favoured position, a role he featured in for just eight matches last season.

Even his Pompey farewell was spent at left-back at Nottingham Forest in the final match of the Championship campaign.

Now at last he has his opportunity as he looks to his football future.

He said: ‘For me, now I would like to finally make a position my own.

‘If I am wanted in other roles I will do that, as it is for the good of the team.

‘I am used to that and it is not something I would object to. But I feel it is time I tried to make that right-back slot my own.

‘That is where I see my future and I want to keep raising the bar.

‘That is where I believe Dougie Freedman wants me to play and I am going to work hard and give it all I have got.

‘Often in games for Pompey my position was tactical but right-back is my preferred position – that is what I believe I am natural at.

‘There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years where people see me playing and my best position – I still see that as being at right-back.

‘I have been blessed and so lucky to have played the games I have over the last few years in so many different positions.

‘It has helped me develop and as a student of the game that is so important.

‘I have done that now, though, and shown my flexibility in various positions. Now I’m looking to establish myself as a right-back.’

Such has been Ward’s key role during the past two campaigns, he has featured in 88 of Pompey’s last 92 matches.

He ended last season at right-back for five of the last six matches as Michael Appleton gave him a run in his preferred role.

The Blues boss has admitted he would have made that the south-coast hero’s regular position had he remained at Fratton Park.

Regardless, Ward has savoured his time at his home-town club.

He added: ‘It has been fantastic playing for Pompey and I really appreciate everyone’s support.

‘The fans have always been there, through some difficult times, and I would like to thank them for that. As players we really appreciate it.

‘It has been a big decision and one I definitely haven’t taken lightly.

‘I have been at Pompey nearly all my life.

‘Now I’m looking to the future and I’m looking forward to starting at Palace.’