herald

Monday 17 December 2018

Europa League trip to Scotland is reward for our hard work: Ward

MEMORABLE SEASON: Stephen Ward in action against Leicester City last season. Pic: PA Wire
MEMORABLE SEASON: Stephen Ward in action against Leicester City last season. Pic: PA Wire

It's a European game but there will be a very British background, with a strong Irish flavour to the affair when Burnley and Aberdeen face off in Scotland this evening.

It's virgin territory for Clarets manager Sean Dyche and the majority of his squad, as Stephen Ward is one of the few players in the Burnley squad to have tasted UEFA competition in the past.

And while his past European battles didn't go as planned, Ward is relishing the chance to play in the Europa League tonight, seeing this game as payback, deserved payback, for the club's achievements in the Premier League last season.

"This is my first time in Europe since I was with Bohs so it's been a long while," says Ward ahead of that trip to Pittodrie.

"Playing in the Premier League is tough enough and for us to qualify was a fantastic achievement.

"This is a reward for the season we had last year, it wasn't planned but here we are and we will enjoy it.

"I had played in Europe before, when I was with Bohs, but not many players here have had that opportunity so for a club like Burnley to do what we did was great and we are looking forward to Europe."

Ward had just joined Bohs from Portmarnock when they faced Rosenborg in the Champions League qualifiers in 2003, though Ward wasn't involved.

He made his European debut for the Gypsies a year later but that was a disaster: having drawn 0-0 away to Levadia Tallinn in the first leg of the old UEFA CUp, they lost 3-1 at Dalymount Park. That was Ward's first taste of Euro action and Stephen Kenny's last game at the club as he was fired the next day,

Memories

Under Gareth Farrelly, Ward played in both legs as the Gypsies lost 3-2 to Gent in the Intertoto Cup. Those memories are still fresh.

"Europe wasn't that great for us at Bohs then, Europe is always tough and I know that," he says.

"This one is a bit different as we're playing a Scottish club and there's a big Irish interest with a couple of Dublin lads in the Aberdeen team.

"It's strange in that we have qualified for Europe and we're only going up the road to Aberdeen. It will be a tough game, a derby feel to it but we're looking forward to it."

Dyche has to decide whether to risk Robbie Brady, only now back to fitness after a season-ending injury in March, though he may wait for the second leg to play the Dubliner.

Aberdeen, who could hand competitive debuts to new Irish signings Chris Forrester and Stephen Gleeson, know this is a challenge.

"Burnley are very good at what they do, they have excellent players and they ask questions of you," says Dons boss Derek McInnes.

"They have a bit of everything, they have players who handle the ball well, they can be physical and they are also very well organised.

"Their workrate is exceptional and when they get the ball forward they have players who can play in the final third. We will certainly need to defend well against them because of that quality they have."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News