Versatile Ward admits right-back preference

Joel Ward in training
Joel Ward in training
Dave Wright. Picture: Colin Farmery

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He’s the flexible stop gap who has established himself as a permanent fixture.

But utility-man Joel Ward is adamant right-back is the role which most suits him.

The 21-year-old has played no fewer than four different positions under Steve Cotterill so far this season.

Most impressive of all, he has shone on occasions in every single one of them.

As a natural defender, Ward has appeared at either right or left-back for the majority of the campaign.

Yet the nature of Steve Cotterill’s paper-thin squad has also resulted in him being pushed up into midfield for eight matches.

Recently, he served on the right flank against QPR, a position he also occupied at Leeds on December 28.

Meanwhile, he netted a sublime goal against Doncaster at the weekend from an attacking central-midfield role.

In the process, his general play saw him crowned Pompey’s man-of-the-match in the 2-0 triumph.

For Ward, the season just gets better as he continues to produce outstanding performances in what is still his maiden first-team campaign.

But the versatile Emsworth youngster insists he is still no more than a right-back asked to fulfil other duties.

He said: ‘Obviously I have had a stint at right-back and left-back and in the middle and what have you.

‘But the gaffer and myself have said it before, I am more of a right-back.

‘I feel that is where I am better suited but I’ll go in and do the job asked.

‘I’m just happy to play really.

‘I’ll play wherever, that’s the main thing for me at the moment, I just want to play games.

‘I’ve had little stints in the middle when I was younger, not too many though.

‘So it’s a case of me learning my role as I go along.

‘The manager and coaching staff have helped me out as well as experienced players alongside me such as Hayden (Mullins). He has been great.

‘I’ve had to learn about the runs off your shoulder.

‘At right-back and left-back you can see pretty much the whole pitch but in the middle you’ve got people coming off the back of you, at the side of you and in front of you.

‘You have just got to make sure you stay focused.

‘If there is a chance, you’ve got to go and support your front man, it’s a big responsibility.

‘You’ve got to get back as well and luckily I have the athleticism to do that.

‘I am happy to go and join in up top and defend when I need to,

‘I’ve played in various positions this season but I’m just thankful to be playing and being able to give everything I’ve got every time I pull on a shirt.

‘But I think I am more of a right-back than anything else.’

Ward has played 31 times so far this season, scoring three goals.

His displays recently earned him a new two-and-a-half year deal.

And the youngster has been quick to pay tribute to the Blues boss who has made it all possible.

He added: ‘The gaffer (Cotterill) has tried to get me going and tried to help me out.

‘He has brought me on massively as a player.

‘I am just thankful to have him at the moment, he’s been really good to me.

‘Hopefully I can keep on playing under him.’