Former Portsmouth favourite poised for pre-season reunion in St George's Park action

Joel Ward celebrates scoring against Southampton at Fratton Park in December 2011. Picture: Oliver ZeeJoel Ward celebrates scoring against Southampton at Fratton Park in December 2011. Picture: Oliver Zee
Joel Ward celebrates scoring against Southampton at Fratton Park in December 2011. Picture: Oliver Zee
Joel Ward is poised for an emotional Pompey reunion – albeit in opposition.

For the first time in his career, the ex-Fratton favourite could face the club he left in May 2012.

Now aged 31, he has remained at Crystal Palace during the subsequent nine years, making 273 appearances.

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Ward is among 11 players presently out of contract with the Premier League side, who had Patrick Vieira take over as manager on Sunday.

However, the defender last month revealed he is in talks over extending his Selhurst Park stay.

Should that develop, that could put him in the frame to line-up against former club Pompey at St George’s Park on Friday, July 16.

Both Palace and the Blues will be training at the Burton-on-Trent based venue next week.

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Their stay will culminate with a behind-closed-doors friendly fixture at the week’s end, kicking off at 12 noon.

It signifies Palace’s opening friendly of their pre-season programme, although they are also scheduled to travel to Walsall the following day for another fixture.

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Regardless, both matches are billed by the Premier League club as first-team games, according to their official website.

Palace are likely to rotate their side with matches in quick succession. Whether that means 45-minute outings or two entirely different teams, that remains to be seen.

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Yet Ward could well come up against the club where he rose through the youth ranks to make 96 appearances and score six times.

Hailing from Emsworth, arguably his most memorable goal was the late leveller against Southampton in December 2011.

Arriving in front of the Fratton end, it cancelled out Ricky Lambert’s opener for a 1-1 draw in the Championship.

Pompey’s perilous financial position meant they had to cash in on Ward in the summer of 2012, selling him to Palace for £400,000.

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He has remained at Selhurst Park to this day, establishing himself as their longest-serving player and a popular figure.

In addition, nobody has appeared more in the Premier League for the club in their history.

Others out of contract at Palace are Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Nathaniel Clyne, Wayne Hennessey, James McCarthy, Andros Townsend, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt and Connor Wickham.

Following Vieira’s arrival on a three-year deal as boss, it is hoped the contract situation will be cleared up, with performers like Ward remaining.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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