Danny Ward reflects on ‘amazing’ Father’s Day inside Stadio Olimpico

·4-min read

Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward has spoken about an unforgettable Father’s Day after FaceTiming his baby son and own dad from the Stadio Olimpico pitch in Rome.

Ward has been one of Wales’ standout performers in qualifying for the knockout stage of Euro 2020 and produced more heroics in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Italy.

The Leicester player said his favourite moment of the tournament arrived after the final whistle when he looked up at the big screen and saw the group table with Wales in second place and qualification confirmed.

Italy v Wales – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group A – Stadio Olimpico
Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward denies Italy striker Andrea Belotti at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday (Massimo Insabato/PA)

But Ward was smiling even more moments later when he contacted his 20-month-old son Albie and dad Greg from a stadium which has hosted both the Olympic Games and the World Cup final.

“I was sat in the changing room and it kind of dawned on me that it was Father’s Day,” Ward said.

“I just thought I’d speak to my son and dad really, it was an off-the-cuff sort of thing.

“Anyone would want to speak to their family, and I was just lucky to be in surroundings that were quite amazing.

“It’s tough being away from family and I thought I’d check in with my little boy to make sure he was all right.

“He was having his bottle and was ready to go to bed and I don’t really think he knows what’s going on.

“He just sees the red shirts on the TV and sees my face. But it’s moments like that you realise you want to do these things.

“I spoke to my father afterwards as well and it was surreal, it was a Father’s Day I won’t forget.

Italy Wales Euro 2020 Soccer
Wales players celebrated their progress to the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a post-match huddle at the Stadio Olimpico (Riccardo Antimiani/AP)

“I said I don’t want to come home as much as I miss you all, because we’re enjoying it and hopefully we carry on getting results to get into the next round.”

Wrexham-born Ward has won the battle for the number one Wales jersey at Euro 2020.

The 27-year-old has been preferred to the 96-times capped Wayne Hennessey, despite not having played a single league game in domestic football since May 2017.

Ward has played just 14 times for Leicester in cup competitions since joining them from Liverpool in 2018.

Wales v Mexico – International Friendly – Cardiff City Stadium
Wayne Hennessey, Wales’ most capped goalkeeper, has lost the number one jersey to Danny Ward (David Davies/PA)

But he now comes up against fellow Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel on Saturday, with Denmark confirmed as Wales’ last-16 opponents.

“It’s a good feeling, something I’ve waited a long time for,” said Ward.

“It’s nice to show people what I can do on the pitch and the team is getting success as well.

“But Wayne and Adam (Davies) have been amazing. The support they’ve given me over the last month or so has been incredible.

Leicester City v Newcastle United – Premier League – King Power Stadium
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has kept Danny Ward on the Leicester bench during the Welshman’s time at the club (Michael Regan/PA)

“We all push each other on and the camaraderie we have as a goalkeeping unit has been unbelievable.

“My mindset has always been about being a number one. You can’t have a mindset of doubting yourself, that’s why we all play football to play games.

“It’s been a tough few years, but this is certainly something I’m relishing.”

Wales, semi-finalists at the last European Championship five years ago, qualified for the last-16 by finishing above Switzerland, ranked 13th in the world, and a much-lauded Turkey team.

“I think it’s a bigger achievement than what people realise,” Ward said.

“We were getting written off a little bit before the tournament, but we wanted to climb the mountain again.

“We’ve given a good account of ourselves and managed to do that.

“We’ve missed most of our fans not being at games, but we know they are with us back at home and hopefully we are making them proud.”