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Saturday 19 October 2019

Burnley stall on Stephen

Boss Dyche will bide his time on offering Ward a new deal

Stephen Ward is pictured during last weekend’s Premier League win over Fulham
Stephen Ward is pictured during last weekend’s Premier League win over Fulham

Sean Dyche says he will take his time before deciding on the Burnley future of Ireland defender Stephen Ward.

The 33-year-old is out of contract with the Clarets at the end of the season, though the club do have the option from his existing deal of extending that by 12 months.

Due to injury, Ward has made just three Premier League appearances this season and his outing in an FA Cup win over Barnsley two weeks ago was his first taste of first-team football in four months as he was sidelined after knee surgery.

He wasn't on the bench for the subsequent Premier League game, last Saturday's win over Fulham, and boss Dyche wants to see Ward get more time with the club's U23/reserve side before he is considered fully fit.

Dyche also has to decide if Ward will be part of his plans for next season with the player turning 34 around the start of next term.

"That is not for now, he has been out injured for three months and we will deal with that in due course," Dyche said when asked about Ward's future.

Ward has made 67 Premier League appearances for the Clarets since his 2014 move from Wolves.

Dyche watched Ward play as an overage player for the U23 side on Monday and while he admits that the Ireland man needs to work on his fitness after that long lay-off, he was pleased with his attitude.

"It was a big call that one but he is such an experienced pro and he was so clear-minded that he said: 'I'm ready.' I asked him 'are you sure? Do you want to have a game?' and he said 'no, I am fine' and he played like that, to be fair," says Dyche.

"I still think he needs more football to be classed as 100pc fit, but he is an older pro and knows his own body so you have more faith in that just because of his experience."

While his club future will be decided by boss Dyche, Ward's international career is also uncertain.

His last appearance for Ireland was in in the 4-1 loss to Wales in Cardiff last September, and he sat out the last five games of the Martin O'Neill era as he had surgery on a long-running knee problem.

Leak

Ward has not been back in the Ireland camp since the contents of his WhatsApp message were leaked and made public, former boss Martin O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane unhappy that the leak happened.

His position at left back had been under threat from younger players like Enda Stevens and Derrick Williams, while Kevin Kilbane last week suggested that the best way to accommodate Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty into the Ireland side was to play Doherty at left back.

However new Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is a big fan of Ward, having taken him to Wolves from Bohemians in 2007 and it was McCarthy who converted Ward from a striker's role to the left back position.

Speaking last summer, Ward said he would play for Ireland as long as he was still asked to play. "If I am still wanted, I will be there.

"If not, I will make a decision for myself," he told The Herald at the start of the season.

McCarthy admitted last week that he had contacted Daryl Murphy (35) about coming out of international retirement.

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