Pearce: Joel’s made for midfield role

South coast derby hero Joel Ward
South coast derby hero Joel Ward
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Sol Campbell on his return to Fratton Park in December. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Joel Ward can establish himself as a vital cog in Pompey’s midfield for years to come.

That’s the verdict of Jason Pearce, who is convinced his team-mate has an outstanding future ahead of him.

South coast derby hero Ward has already amassed 71 Blues appearances, netting five times.

Of those, 53 have been first-team starts.

The 22-year-old has yet to carve out a specific position for himself in the Blues’ starting line-up, having operated at right-back, left-back and on the left-hand side of midfield this term.

Under new boss Michael Appleton, though, he has featured in the right-midfield berth in the past four matches.

That has coincided with a welcome return to form for the Emsworth youngster.

Finally, he is reproducing the performances which saw him crowned runner-up in The News/Sports Mail player of the season last term.

And Pearce has been impressed with his Blues colleague’s midfield displays.

He said: ‘Me and Joel are good mates and I was delighted for him on Sunday. That meant a lot to him and hopefully he can keep doing it.

‘He’s certainly playing well enough at the minute, he has done very well.

‘The thing is, he can play in any position you put him in and will always give 100 per cent.

‘What Joel has done is taken that right-sided position and made it his own.

‘The gaffer has shown a lot of faith in Wardy and Wardy has definitely repaid him with some really good performances and scored a couple of goals as well.

‘He’s a very good player. He is still young, he is still learning.

‘But he has really impressed with that right-sided position and I think he can keep playing there for a long while yet.

‘Joel never stops running, he has done brilliant. He works ever so hard and deserves everything that comes to him.’

Pompey’s point against rivals Southampton on Sunday extends their unbeaten run to four matches.

During that time they have picked up eight points to continue the promising start to Appleton’s reign.

In addition, the Blues haven’t lost at Fratton Park since September.

It’s a run stretching back six matches.

Next up is an away trip to Millwall on Boxing Day.

And Pearce believes their latest positive result puts them in an excellent frame of mind.

He added: ‘Millwall will be a tough game but we want to keep going on our unbeaten run.

‘Things are going well for us at the moment, the confidence is growing.

‘It was a good point against a Southampton side who are top of the league.

‘Now we want to continue that at Millwall.’