Although Julian Speroni was voted as this season’s Player of the Year, many supporters felt prior to the event, that Joel Ward was certain to be the fan’s favourite.
The defender had adapted scarily well to life in the top flight, proving capable of performing admirably in his natural position of right-back, as well as left-back and in the centre of midfield. In short, whenever his manager has needed to plug a figurative hole in our starting XI, Ward has been the player chosen to fill it.
Physically, he offers a great deal, showing strength and aerial ability to go alongside genuine composure with the ball at his feet. Whilst not blessed with lightning pace, the former Portsmouth man is quick enough, and often demonstrates a level of comfort in possession that nullifies his opponents defensive efforts.
Having played the majority of the campaign under Pulis at left-back, with Adrian Mariappa filling in on the right, Ward has continued to shine, undaunted by the conveyor belt of attacking talent that the Premier League has to offer.
With our top flight status now secure for another season, Ward will be hopeful of a permanent addition being made to the squad at left-back, enabling him to return to the right-hand side, and consequently giving our defence an even greater sense of balance and cohesion.
Signed by Dougie Freedman as a direct replacement for Nathaniel Clyne when the academy product left for Southampton, many would have thought that Ward was capable of living up to his predecessors high standards, but should he continue to provide the sort of consistency he has become synonymous with since joining, there is an argument to suggest that he will have eclipsed Clyne’s impact on the club.
2013/14 Season Grade: A