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Saturday 22 September 2018

Ward happy to be speaking 'same language' as new management duo

Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward during squad training. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward during squad training. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

IT'S GOOD to talk – and Stephen Ward admits that the lines of communication in the new set-up with Ireland are making it easier for the players to do their jobs.

Communication under Giovanni Trapattoni was a muddled affair at times, and while Ward – restored to the Ireland XI by Martin O'Neill last Friday after a year spent out in the cold – retains his respect and admiration for the former Ireland boss, he does feel that any previous language barriers have been removed.

"With the new manager and assistant manager being who they are, there will obviously be an advantage in terms of language," says Ward, who won his 19th cap against Latvia on Friday but may revert to the bench for tomorrow's game in Poznan as O'Neill tinkers with his personnel and formation.

"In fairness to the last manager he always got his points across but when you have a manager and assistant who speak the same language it will be easier."

Ward was one of the players in the squad for the November double header who had not worked with, played with or played under either O'Neill or Keane but the Brighton man feels he has already slotted into things with Keane.

"Roy has been great to work with," he says.

"The media have built up this whole thing about Roy and his personality but he has been so relaxed and positive. He was one of the greatest players Ireland ever had so it's great to have him working with you.

"I have had little chats with Roy, the same as the rest of the squad, he has a word with people all the time."

While the poor quality of the opposition on Friday has to be taken into account, the 3-0 win over Latvia was pleasing to the eye and Ward hopes that the approach – especially the role filled by Wes Hoolahan – is a taste of what's to come.

"We controlled the game well and never let the Latvians into it, we know we'll have tougher tests ahead but this was a great start," Ward says.

"We were more creative in terms of getting the ball forward and that was great to see. Wes Hoolahan was a big part of that for us, I wasn't surprised when the manager started him as Wes was excellent in training all week.

Creative

"I don't know how he drops his shoulder so low to ground but he somehow does it, and when you have the likes of Weso, McGeady and McClean in the side, with Whelo and Jamesie in the middle keeping things ticking over, you are going to create chances and it was a really enjoyable game to play in.

"We kept the ball well on Friday, but the qualifiers are a long way away and we'll be up against better teams."

Friday against Latvia was a welcome return to the Irish side for Ward, his first cap in 12 months – his previous runout was also in a home friendly in November, against Greece.

"I only found out two hours before the game that I was starting so it was great news to get.

"It was a good week for Irish football, back in the squad and then back in the team as we won and kept a clean sheet," he says.

"I was really honoured to start in Martin's first game, I know he's new in the job and wants to see everyone in action and he may go with someone else at left back tomorrow but I was glad to get back in the side.

"We were delighted to keep a clean sheet, even if the Latvians weren't the strongest side. It was stressed to us before the game and throughout the match that we needed to keep it blank at the back and it was great to keep a clean sheet."

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