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‘Winning at Sunderland would be a huge statement,’ says Town defender Ward

PUBLISHED: 12:19 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:47 02 November 2020

Ipswich Town defender Stephen Ward in action during Saturday's 1-0 home win against Crewe. Photo: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town defender Stephen Ward in action during Saturday's 1-0 home win against Crewe. Photo: Steve Waller

Following Saturday’s 1-0 home win against Crewe, Ipswich Town take on League One promotion rivals Sunderland at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night. Here’s what Blues defender Stephen Ward had to say ahead of the long trip to the north east.

ON SATURDAY’s 1-0 HOME WIN AGAINST CREWE

“Listen, I think we all know that first half wasn’t good enough. We obviously improved second half and ended up getting the win.

“Of course we want to play attractive football and win in style as much as we can, but games won’t always go your way and that’s when you have dig in and be resolute.

“I thought we showed a real appetite for that on Saturday. It was backs against the wall a bit first half, but we showed that togetherness and inner belief that we could still pick up a result. So it was pleasing in that sense.

“I really enjoy how we play and how we try to win games. The main thing is we have a style and system that we want to stick to, we want to be expansive and move the ball well, but it’s important we show we can fight for every point too.

“We understand it’s not always going to be plane sailing. It’s not always going to be easy to impose our style on other teams. Saturday was a big lift because we proved we can do that side of the game too.”

ON OLI HAWKINS SCORING HIS FIRST GOAL FOR THE CLUB

“You can see how delighted everybody was for him on Saturday. He’s worked really hard and just not had that luck in front of goal. He was denied by a couple of world class saves in the Rochdale game, he’s hit the post and had some near misses here and there. He was just desperate for one to go in.

“He does really well holding up the ball and when balls come into the box he’s a big threat. Thankfully he got the goal on Saturday which was great for him and great for us. Hopefully he can kick on from here.”

ON TOMAS HOLY’S SAVES

“When you’ve got a goalie like Tomas behind you making the saves like he did on Saturday it’s great. That obviously gives us as a back four confidence.

“Hopefully we can keep chances down to a minimum. That’s something we’ve really tried to do this year, be resolute with our defending. With an eye on playing out, we have to be very tight at the back. And I feel we have done that.

“But when we needed Tomas, he was absolutely brilliant for us.”

ON ARSENAL LOANEE MARK MCGUINNESS

“The one thing I would say is that we are very, very blessed with the quality of the centre-halves we have in the whole squad. The two lads who started the season (James Wilson and Toto Nsiala) have done outstandingly well, now the two young lads (McGuiness and Luke Woolfenden) have come in to freshen it up.

“Mark’s been great. He’s a really, really good young pro, really willing to learn and has a great appetite to play the game and continue to grow. I think he’s done really well in his first two games. It’s been a great start for him and we’re really happy for him.”

ON STANDARD OF LEAGUE ONE FOOTBALL

“It’s been very competitive. I think the standard of football is a lot higher than what a lot of people expect. There are a lot of teams who want to play football and be expansive. Look at Crewe on Saturday – the way they passed and moved the ball was as good as anything you’d expect in the higher divisions.

“You come up against different tests every week and as a group we are enjoying that challenge. We want to compete and be right at the top of the league.

“I think the league is starting to take shape a little bit now after 10 games, but you can’t rest on your laurels at all because the games come thick and fast.

“After a couple of defeats, in which we felt we were a little bit unlucky at times, we’ve bounced back strong. We need to just take each game as it comes.”

ON PLAYING DURING A SECOND NATIONAL LOCKDOWN

“I’ve got no problem with it, not at all. I played through the first one (at Stoke). Football has put the protocols in place. We’ve got plenty of room at the training ground for social distancing. They’re on top of everything with temperature checks, filling out questionnaires before training and before playing. So I’ve got no problem doing it.”

ON RECENT THREE-WEEK BREAK WITH AN ACHILLES INJURY

“My body is feeling good. I’m at that age where I know I have to look after my body off the pitch. As soon as I finish a game it’s about preparing right for the next training session.

“It’s about eating right, sleeping right. I’ve got an ice machine at home. It’s about making sure I have to the odd stretch. All the stuff you don’t have to do when you’re 24/25.

“You have to make sure you are ready to go again, especially with the way the world is at the moment and the way the games are coming thick and fast. Any extra percentage you can get the better.

“I think if you ask any player they prefer the games coming constantly. If you have a bad result there’s no time to dwell on it, if you have a good result there’s not ime to get too ahead of yourselves either. It keeps you very grounded and keeps the focus that the next game is the most important.”

ON HELPING YOUNGER PLAYERS

“If you ask anyone experienced player they’ll tell you that the younger ones keep you young! I’ve seen a lot throughout my career and it’s great to be able to pass on advice.

“Credit to the young lads here, they are all willing to learn. They are really focussed on improving and making that step to the next level, so when the experienced lads like myself, Luke (Chambers), Alan Judge, Cole (Skuse) speak then they take it on board.

“There’s a real good mix and blend in the squad between experience and youth.”

ON TOMORROW NIGHT’S GAME AT SUNDERLAND

“It’s two massive clubs who are striving to get back up the leagues. They’ll have the exact same focus on this year that we do – to get promoted.

“It’s a massive game. Logistically for ourselves it’s going to be another tough one, playing Saturday and then having to rest up and get ourselves right to make a decent journey.

“It’s going to be a tough game. They’re a big club. But we go there with a lot of confidence after the weekend and hopefully we can bring back the three points.

ON NEEDING TO BEAT A PROMOTION RIVAL

“You have to win as many games as possible full stop – against the teams at the bottom, the middle and top. But definitely you have to beat some of the teams at the top along the way.

“The league is starting to take a bit of shape, there are a lot of teams in good form, so it’s important that you don’t let your standards drop.

“The games against the so-called bigger teams are going to be massive, of course they are, but three points are three points whoever you play against. That’s the way we’ve got to look at it. It’s Sunderland, it’s a massive game, but there’s still the same prize at the end of the 90 minutes.

“There’s belief in the squad after the start we’ve had and the position we are in the league. I don’t really see a reason for us not to believe that we can have a successful season.

“I understand what you’re saying though (about the need to beat promotion rivals). They’re a big side and a big club. Going to Sunderland and winning would be a huge statement, we know that, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”

ON THE PRESSURE OF BEING A ‘BIG CLUB’ IN LEAGUE ONE

“There’s evidence of that in every game we play. Look at Crewe on Saturday – they come to Ipswich Town and they want to prove a point. That’s a constant battle. The size of the club that we are and what Sunderland are, there is that target on your head. Teams want to come and do you over and prove that they are as good as you. I think that was the case on Saturday.

“On the outside, people were probably expecting us to win and Crewe came with a bit of freedom to play. That ‘nothing to lose’ attitude can be dangerous to face.

“Clubs like us, Sunderland, Hull... That’s what we have to deal with throughout the season.”


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