Elliot “Wardy” Ward joined on a Free transfer on May 26th last year. Having been discarded by Coventry last season, spending stints on loan at PNE and Doncaster, his signature was met with the following sentence by most I imparted the news onto “Oh, is he any good?”
I was reasonably pleased with his signing as he always struck me as a good quality defender, who is comfortable with the ball at his feet (something we’ve lacked for many years!). Wardy started the season paired up with Michael Nelson for the opener against Watford. Any Norwich supporter who saw that game would have come away believing we needed to strengthen our defence, as it was disappointing to say the least. This was forced to happen in the 3rd week of the season when Wardy gained a new defensive partner in Leon Barnett., due to Nelson’s injury.
Leon and Wardy struck up an instant relationship, which allowed them to both play to their strengths. It became apparent that Wardy was more than comfortable with the ball at his feet, understandably good in the air(which he should be as he’s 6ft 1in tall!). His ability with the ball has allowed us to start attacks from the back, with our quality short passing game.
After he was struck with a Hamstring strain, he missed a month of the season, he made his return against Millwall replacing Zak. If it wasn’t already clear by this game, it was evident now; Wardy was Lamberts first choice at centre back. For any criticism he was (inexplicably) getting, he came back into a side featuring two excellent centre backs and made the position his own again. It was this game his finally broke his duck for the club, tapping home after Lansbury’s free-kick had rattled the post. He spent the last 3 months of the season pair with Scouse-Yank-Zak, much like his pairing with Barney, the relationship was quickly stuck and they showed the quality they both possess.
Some fans bemoaned the way he plays as they considered him lazy and over-confident, but I saw it as relaxed, calm style which is needed at the back in a promotion chasing team. We saw in the games against Bristol City, Forest, 1p5wich and Pompey, that Wardy’s defensive ability cannot be doubted. He played the majority of the season, a dream season, and we should be delighted that he chose us on May 26th last year. It’s amazing in this over-inflated transfer fee time, that we can pick up someone of Wardy’s quality for nothing.
As for next season, he’s one of the few current players with (small) Premier League experience. I believe that with his calmness & ability on the ball, he can be as good for us in the Prem as he’s been this year. Should he not be a sure starter next year, at least we know we have quality on the bench. All in all, for a player discarded by a mediocre team in the Midlands, I don’t think he’s too bad at all.
by Andrew Kent