Joel Ward revels in picture perfect presence in Portsmouth v Southampton derby folklore

Emsworth's Joel Ward netted a late Pompey equaliser the last time the sides met at Fratton Park. Picture: Chris Ison
Emsworth's Joel Ward netted a late Pompey equaliser the last time the sides met at Fratton Park. Picture: Chris Ison
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The picture still hangs on the wall at the Emsworth home of the Ward family.

The bedroom is now empty, vacated since their son clinched a move to Crystal Palace in the summer of 2012.

Joel Ward heads home the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Southampton in December 2011. Picture: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

Joel Ward heads home the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Southampton in December 2011. Picture: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

Yet the picture remains in position, an indelible reminder of Joel Ward’s famous south-coast derby contribution.

Depicting the burst of glorious emotion accompanying an 84th-minute headed equaliser against Southampton, it represents an immense source of pride for the Pompey fan.

Ward operated on the right-hand side of midfield for Michael Appleton’s side on that December 2011 occasion, the last time the fierce rivals met at Fratton Park.

These days he is an established Premier League right-back performer with Palace, racking up more than 200 appearances.

And he revels in memories of embracing the Fratton end's roar.

He told The News: ‘I was a Pompey fan growing up and, being on the club’s books, we were very fortunate and always looked after with tickets.

‘I was at Wembley for the 2008 FA Cup final, invaded the pitch when we were promoted to the Premier League under Harry Redknapp, there to watch the Great Escape and to see AC Milan.

‘As an Emsworth lad, you grow up with the importance of the south-coast derby ingrained in you, so it was great to then score against Southampton in a game which means so much to the fans.

‘The photo is still at my parents’ house on the wall in my old bedroom. It’s of me heading towards the corner flag after scoring, looking to see where my family were.

‘To score at Fratton Park is an amazing achievement and honour, regardless of the situation. To do it in that way, in that game, was something I really treasure.

‘To be honest with you, the occasion and whole atmosphere almost turns that match into a blur.

'George Thorne headed a corner back across goal and I just thought “I’ve got to get it” and beat the guy on the post to score.

‘Likewise the away game, when David Norris hit that volley, you treasure being involved in the big moments – and that was certainly one.

‘The drama of the game makes it so special, the fans in particular have such incredible memories of certain occasions, there is no way you can ever describe that euphoria when something like that happens.

‘The ball pops up and Chuck buries it. Wow, just one of those occasions where you can't write it – it was incredible.

‘Every now and again you see the clip on social media – and my goal – and it always brings a smile to your face.’

Ward started both of those draws during the 2011-12 Championship campaign.

He plans to attend the first south-coast derby since – and will always be grateful for his Pompey grounding.

He added: ‘I’m so thankful to Pompey for everything they did for me from a very young age.

‘My time there was special, those memories live with me, 

‘I had two seasons where I pretty much played every game, which was a great base for me, an opportunity to get football under my belt.

‘Being a local lad, Pompey was an incredible journey and incredible times.’