Joel Ward believes incoming Palace boss has ‘great platform to build from’

·5-min read

Joel Ward believes Crystal Palace have a great foundation to build on ahead of a transitional period for the club.

Roy Hodgson stepped down from his role as manager after four years last month and with a number of players out of contract, it could be a much-changed Eagles side that walks out at Selhurst Park in August to begin a ninth consecutive campaign in the Premier League.

With no manager in place and Tottenham, Wolves and Everton also on the lookout for a new boss, it is an uncertain time for the south London side, but their long-serving defender feels there is reason for optimism.

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Right-back Ward told the PA news agency: “We are in a transitional stage and in a different position now going into the summer with changes on the horizon.

“As players we just have to focus on what we can control and that is our own performances and the way we conduct ourselves.

“Everything else is down to the hierarchy, the chairman and people involved in that process. I think the club has a great platform and a great foundation to build from.”

Ward is one of several players able to leave at the end of June, but the 2012 signing remains hopeful he will extend his stay in SE25 and in the process become eligible for a testimonial at the end of next season.

Andros Townsend, another out of contract, insisted the club were waiting to appoint Hodgson’s successor before a decision was made over who would be offered new terms with Eddie Howe, Nuno Espirito Santo, Sean Dyche and Steve Cooper in the running for the vacancy.

“I still believe there are many more years here at the club for me and hopefully that can get resolved and sorted,” Ward added.

“I would like to think I have given everything I can to keep the club in the Premier League. Hopefully things get sorted out, we are in talks and the club know where I stand, so hopefully things can move forward and when it gets tied up we can enjoy the next few years.”

Ward is one of two players still at the club from the group who clinched promotion eight years ago with a 1-0 win over Watford at Wembley.

The other is Wilfried Zaha and that 2012-13 campaign is the subject of a new docu-series – ‘When Eagles Dare’ – set to be released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.

It charts the club’s journey from administration in 2010 to promotion three years later and Ward, who is one of many to do retrospective interviews for the five 50-minute episodes, said: “It has been a journey, a journey I have loved and a great one to be a part of.

“Obviously I wasn’t here when the club was fighting for its life, but I came here the season we got promoted and it has been an incredible time.

“We have had some incredible highs and we’ve been so fortunate with the people working at the club since I’ve been here and the years we have been blessed to be in the Premier League. I feel it is quite overwhelming the support you get from the fans and everyone else here.”

It did not take Ward long to endear himself to the Selhurst Park faithful and his clearance off the line to deny Fernando Forestieri at Wembley back in 2013 remains talked about to this very day in what was a ‘sliding doors’ moment.

“Yeah, I thank God for that, I was in the right place at the right time,” the 31-year-old admitted.

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“But there are so many moments in that game and it was written in the stars, so I thank God I was a part of it.

“It was such a blessing and I feel very fortunate. Even talking about it puts the hairs up on the back of my neck because it was such an emotional thing to go through.”

One of the final scenes in ‘When Eagles Dare’ is Damien Delaney breaking down in tears at Wembley before he is consoled by team-mate Peter Ramage in a clip which shows what it meant to that squad to win promotion.

Described as a “group of wrong’uns brought together with a point to prove” by Ramage, play-off success was the foundation for the Eagles to flourish on their top-flight return.

Hodgson has been a huge factor in the club retaining Premier League status, securing mid-table finishes in his four seasons, and similar emotional scenes occurred when he was given a guard of honour before Palace’s final home game and received various standing ovations from the 6,500 fans present.

Ward is extremely thankful to the 73-year-old and praised his role during the absence of supporters.

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“For many of us Roy is more than just a manager, for me he is certainly more than that. He is someone who has helped me in my professional career, but also in my personal life,” the defender said.

“Roy and Ray (Lewington), they steadied the ship and I think it is a testament to the people here at the club from top to bottom that we have gone out in a professional manner and we’ve done what we had to do this season.

“When things were tough and going against us, we were able to dig in and get results that we probably shouldn’t have and thankfully the main thing is we are still in the Premier League.”

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