‘Hopefully I can be that extra voice that’s needed’ – Ward determined to finish career on a high at Ipswich
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Stephen Ward is one of three new signings at Ipswich Town. STUART WATSON spoke to the experienced Irishman about what he hopes to bring to the team this season.
Stephen Ward hopes he can help share the leadership load with Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers this season.
The veteran left-back, 35, drops down into League One having spent the last 14 years of his career playing in the top two divisions with Wolves, Brighton, Burnley and Stoke.
“I’ve know Chambo for years,” said Ward, speaking ahead of the Blues’ televised League One opener against Wigan, at Portman Road, on Sunday lunchtime (12pm).
“We’ve got mutual friends who played alongside him at Forest and here at Ipswich, so I’ve met him a few times at gets togethers and weddings and stuff. We have a really good relationship.
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“He’s the captain, but in any successful team you need two, three, four captains on the pitch. You need leaders everywhere and hopefully I can be that extra voice that’s needed.
“With Chambo, myself, Cole (Skuse) and Alan Judge we do have players who have played a lot of games and experienced all those ups and downs.
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“I think it’s important to have four or five older, bigger characters that aren’t afraid to voice their opinion.
“I feel as though I’ve got quite a lot of experience. I’ve won promotions and also been relegated. Anything I can pass on to the young lads I will. I like the responsibility.
“First and foremost I’ve come here to do a job as a player. But I’ve been in dressing rooms as a young kid and seen the importance of the senior players. You need them, because there are going to be times in the season where it’s going to be tough and sometimes you just need that calm head who’s been around the game and been in situations like it before.
“Listen, my words may not mean a whole lot to people, but if I can give any sort of advice that helps younger players then hopefully that is something I can add to the squad.
“In all the successful teams and squads I’ve been involved with I’ve always found that there was a really good mix of youth and experience. I think that is vital.”
Ward, who has 50 caps for the Republic of Ireland, continued: “I spoke to a couple of clubs in the Championship (after being released by Stoke) but I didn’t really fancy waiting around until the last minute,” he said.
“So when I found out there was an opportunity to come here I was keen to do it.
“The calibre of manager, with the experience he has of managing at the highest level, was something that attracted me.
“As a player he had a fantastic career and I know a lot of the players who played for him at Aston Villa and Wolves. When they heard I was coming down here they sent me lots of messages and they were all very positive about him.
“I spoke to Jonathan Walters, who only had great things to say about the club too, but listen, the club spoke for itself really. I’ve always enjoyed playing at Portman Road.”
Ward made 17 starts for Stoke last season, 11 of them coming in succession at the back end of 2019.
“I’m keep myself right, I look after my body and I still really enjoy coming into work every day,” he said.
“I enjoy the attacking side of things and I take pride in defending.
“I may not be as nimble as someone who has got 5/10 years on me, but the one thing I’ll do is give it everything. I’ll run as hard as I can, as quick as I can for as many games as I can.”
He added: “I still have the desire to achieve things in the game. I want to finish my career on a high note.
“It is going to be a tough season and with so many big clubs in League One now it’s a tough call to say who is going to win promotion, but with what we have available in the squad we believe we can be up there.
“With the way the manager wants us to play, hopefully we can create a good number of chances.
“You never really know until things get going but we feel we are in great shape and are looking forward to attacking the season and really going for it.
“I’m really excited about what lies ahead for us. Since I’ve been here I can see how much talent there is in the squad. It’s a very big club and you can sense the aura around it.
“This is a club that should be at a much higher up the English league spectrum and I’m hoping we can have a really successful year to get us back to the Championship.
“If we achieve promotion this season – especially if we actually win the league – it will definitely count as a major highlight in my career.”