Belfast Telegraph

Jamie Ward: Our guts will lead to glory in Euro 2016 finals

By Steven Beacom

Jamie Ward says that Northern Ireland's guts can lead to glory at the Euro 2016 finals.

The all action Nottingham Forest star epitomises what Michael O'Neill's team is all about in terms of effort and commitment and feels that spirit can take them a long way in France.

"I know Germany, Poland and Ukraine will be tough opposition but I don't see why we can't qualify from the group," said Ward, who won his 20th cap in Monday's 1-0 success over Slovenia at Windsor Park.

"We're not going to be the best footballing team there but we're going to be the team with the most guts. We're going to be organised when we're there, that's what Michael asks of us, so we're going to go in feeling confident.

"We've always been the underdog, even in the group we qualified from.

"We played Greece at home in the game when we sealed qualification and even then some people had us down as the underdogs.

"So the underdog tag in the group won't affect us, if anything it'll play into our hands."

Ward was a key player during qualifying in the 4-3-3 formation used by O'Neill, working superbly with Conor McLaughlin on the right flank, but has also shown in recent friendlies he can adapt to the 3-5-2 system as part of the front pairing.

"It's been important to work on things and make sure that we have a plan 'B'," said Ward.

"I think people can see that 3-5-2 is going to be that for us and you might see another formation the next time we meet up.

"Whatever shape Michael puts out it's important that we believe in it and hang on every word he says.

"Michael and his staff have worked extremely hard off the pitch and we've worked hard to put his plan into place.

"That's obviously paid off, because we're going to France.

"It's a great achievement for everyone involved."

Like the rest of his team-mates Ward was delighted to make history on Monday and help Northern Ireland move to 10 matches in a row without defeat.

He is keen to ensure the run continues.

"We've love to extend that record and make it even longer," said the 29-year-old former Derby County ace.

"In the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign we couldn't buy a win but Michael and the boys have really turned it around.

"As people can see we're prepared to run through brick walls for each other.

"You know that if you blow up and you have to come off there is someone waiting who can do a job to replace you."

Former Northern Ireland Under-21 international Billy Kee has committed his future to Sky Bet League Two club Accrington Stanley until 2018.

The 25-year-old, who returned to the Wham Stadium last summer, has scored 17 goals to help Stanley to fourth place.

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