Ward given new freedom to play

Michael Appleton is determined to release the shackles from Joel Ward.

Tuesday, 6th December 2011, 9:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:56 pm

And the Blues boss believes a bit of one-to-one man management is the way to get the best from him.

The 22-year-old turned in arguably his best display for the club in the 2-1 win over Coventry at the weekend, winning the first-half penalty that Greg Halford converted and then clinching the points with a well-taken drive in the second half.

But Ward’s all-round display was full of commitment.

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He picked up a slight, self-inflicted knock with one particularly meaty tackle in the first half – while his energy and pace gave the Coventry defence plenty of problems all afternoon.

Having become Pompey manager last month, Appleton has already singled out Ward for some words of encouragement.

And the boss believes he can improve his charge by simply allowing him to play with more freedom.

Appleton said: ‘In the game at Watford, Joel looked like someone who had the weight of the world on his shoulders a little bit.

‘He seemed to be rushed and panicky in possession and sometimes you have got to manage players differently.

‘Some need a bit of a rollicking and some need an arm round them.

‘All I’ve asked Joel to do is to play with more freedom. With Joel, you just need to have a good chat with him and tell him exactly what you want.

‘He is a player who sticks to what you want and he will follow it right down to a tee. Sometimes he takes you literally to your word and you have to say: “No, Joel, you’ve got to make your own decision there”.

‘But he has taken what we have been asking on board.

‘I thought he did really well and he has been rewarded with a good goal.’

The Emsworth-based talent has come through the ranks at Fratton Park and only became a first-team regular last season under former boss Steve Cotterill.

Ward’s versatility makes him a useful member of the squad with Appleton recognising he can do a job anywhere in midfield or across the back.

The Pompey boss is keen to nail down Ward’s best position but he recognises how useful it is to have a player who can do a variety of different jobs for the team.

He said: ‘If I am being honest, I have not worked out what his best position is yet.

‘At the moment, we have got a small squad and he will have to continue playing in different roles for me.

‘He’s useful in that he gives us options in different positions but I don’t want to have to rely on him all the time to give us cover.

‘There will be times during a season when you desperately need someone to fill in.

‘But from his point of view, he is doing a good job for us out there and hopefully that will continue.’