Stuart Slater urges Ipswich Town to sign up ‘exciting’ teenage trialist Joe Ward

Chelmsford City's Joe Ward, pictured during his trial game for Ipswich Town at Chippenham.

Chelmsford City's Joe Ward, pictured during his trial game for Ipswich Town at Chippenham. - Credit: Archant

Ex-Ipswich Town player Stuart Slater has urged his former club to take a gamble on teenage trialist Joe Ward.

Slater – who made more than 80 appearances for the Blues during the 1990s – has been coaching 17-year-old striker Ward at Chelmsford College’s football academy over the last two years.

The youngster may have started last season playing Sunday League football, but Slater is convinced the speedy goalscorer has got what it takes to make it in the professional game after breaking into Chelmsford City’s first-team squad at the back end of the campaign.

“I started coaching this lad at 15 and couldn’t believe that he had not been in an academy before,” said Sudbury-born Slater, who made his name at West Ham and went on to make a £1.5m switch to Celtic.

“He’s a humble lad though, quite laid back, and I don’t think he knows how good he is. He’s got blistering pace, great feet – right and left – and a super end product. He knows where the goal is and I prefer him up front, but he has got the ability to beat a man if you wanted to play him deeper or out wide.

“As a football fan you want to be excited and this lad is the sort that gets you off your seat. I was an academy coach at West Ham for five years and I know he has what it takes to make it.”

Slater continued: “I used some of my contacts in the game and got him a trial at West Ham towards the back of last season and he scored three goals in four games for their development side – against the likes of Liverpool, Stoke and West Brom.

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“West Ham were so impressed they said they would take him, but they couldn’t guarantee that he would be getting many games.

“I didn’t think that would be right for his development so I called Bryan Klug (Town academy director) and Steve McGavin (Town academy recruitment) and got them to take a look.

“He scored for Ipswich (at Chippenham) last weekend and has had a couple of training sessions with Mick McCarthy.

“I’d love him to go to Ipswich because they always had such a strong youth policy when I was there and they have certainly got the right man in Bryan Klug to get that back.

“Both he and Steve McGavin know a good young player when they see one.”

He added: “I’m putting my neck on the block, but I’ve seen him develop from boy to young man and I think he’s got what it takes. I played with a lot of players in my career who had half his talent and pace.”

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