Patrick Vieira says there’s “no doubt” that Joel Ward’s decade-long service to Crystal Palace will be celebrated by the club, with a potential testimonial match on the horizon for the full-back.
Ward – a £400,000 signing from Portsmouth – joined Palace in May 2012 and immediately helped the club to promotion from the Championship in his first full season, playing a vital role in the play-off final win at Wembley against Watford when he cleared a shot off the line in the final minute of injury time.
He has since featured heavily for the club during their nine-year stay in the Premier League, playing a big part in every manager’s plans and helping the Eagles reach just their second-ever FA Cup final in 2016, which they lost to Manchester United.
Only Wilfried Zaha (421) has made more appearances for the club than Ward (303) of the current first-team squad and Vieira – who spent nine years at Arsenal – said reaching a decade of service was a special moment for the defender that should be recognised.
“Wardy has always been happy to play in this football club,” said the Frenchman. “There’s real love between him and this club. On the sports side, you have to fight to earn your place and you have to be ambitious to help the club grow and Wardy is the kind of person who, if he’s happy somewhere, doesn’t see any reason to go anywhere else. It’s more and more difficult [to find that] now.”
Asked whether Ward would be given a testimonial match for his service, Vieira added: “I think Palace is one of the football clubs where we love to keep these kinds of traditions and I think it’s a good thing to do. I don’t have any doubt that his ten years will be celebrated in this football club.”
Ward was only 22 when he arrived at Palace and had experienced professionals in the dressing room alongside him like Damien Delaney and Mile Jedinak. Now, he is looked up to as one of the senior pros in the current dressing room, with opposite full-back and academy graduate Tyrick Mitchell currently the same age Ward was when he first came to south London.
“It’s really important for me to have these kinds of positive role models,” added Vieira. “We talk about young players coming through the academy and they need to identify themselves with a really good example and Wardy is one of them. His competitiveness on the field and his everyday work to perform on the weekend. He was one of the players who worked under Roy [Hodgson] who then helped me to put my own message through”