Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Ward: there's no hangover from our Euro heroics

By Paul Ferguson

Published 06/09/2016

On the ball: Jamie Ward says Northern Ireland are fully focused
On the ball: Jamie Ward says Northern Ireland are fully focused

Pint-sized terrier Jamie Ward insists Northern Ireland's stuttering display against the Czech Republic in Prague on Sunday night was not down to a Euro 2016 hangover.

Northern Ireland secured a valuable opening 2018 World Cup qualifying point after a scoreless draw at the Generali Arena but their performance was littered with mistakes, a lack of high-tempo action and key players such as skipper Steven Davis, Paddy McNair and Kyle Lafferty failed to fire.

Ward, however, argues that Northern Ireland have moved on from their exploits in France as they realise that qualifying for the World Cup finals would be a greater achievement than reaching the Euros.

With only the top team in each group qualifying automatically for Russia and the best eight second-placed finishers out of nine going into a play-off, Ward confesses the focus changed some time ago to these fixtures.

The new Burton Albion signing, on loan from Nottingham Forest until the end of the season, said: "It wasn't difficult to adjust to a new qualifying campaign. This is our job. This is what we get paid for so we have to be professional enough to realise that. This competition is no different to the Euros - if anything it's a bigger stage to play on if we qualify for it."

The Czech Republic were once one of the superpowers in European football. That is no longer the case with the likes of Nedved, Poborsky and Baros, who graced the international arena with such distinction, long retired. But as skipper Davis admitted in his pre-match briefing, the very name, the Czech Republic, should tell you that you're in for a tough match.

"We'd have accepted a point at the start of the game," remarked 30-year-old Ward. "I said earlier in the week that it was important we didn't lose and we've got off to a good start and it looks like we have done that.

"I thought the first half was fine. We nicked the ball in some good positions, but our final pass in the end wasn't quite right. They came on strong in the second half but we defended well.

"We are a good side - just look at what we did at the start of the Euros campaign. We went to Hungary and beat them and went to Greece and beat them. So there's an awful lot of character in this team now and you can see that drives us through."

Northern Ireland will now play San Marino in their second World Cup qualifier at a completely refurbished Windsor Park on Saturday, October 8.

Northern Ireland fans at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Northern Ireland fans at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland' Manager Michael O'Neill during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fan during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Czech Republic's Pavel Kaderabek with Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland fans during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 04/09/2016 Northern Ireland v Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier Northern Ireland Manager Michael O'Neill during this evening's game at the Generali Arena in Prague. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier against the Czech Republic at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Czech Republic's Tomas Vaclik with Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty during Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland players after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Steven Davis, Jonny Evans and Conor McLaughlin after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley header against Czech Republic during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Stuart Dallas and Czech Republic Vladimir Darida during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Jamie Ward and Czech Republic Vladimir Darida during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Gareth McAuley and Czech Republic Filip Novak during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Northern Ireland fans after the draw with the Czech Republic in Sunday's World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague. William Cherry Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Kyle Lafferty and Czech Republic Tomas Vaclik during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland fans after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 04th September 2016 - Photo by William Cherry Northern Ireland's Stuart Dallas after drawing with the Czech Republic in Sundays World Cup 2018 Qualifier at the Generali Arena, Prague.
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Josh Magennis and Czech Republic Pavel Kaderabek during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland Steven Davis and Czech Republic Filip Novak during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 4th September 2016 Mandatory Credit Brian Little/-Presseye Northern Ireland team against Czech Republic during Sunday's FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier at Generali Arena, Prague Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Ward is today set to meet up with his team-mates at Burton for the first time since his move on transfer deadline day but already is relishing taking on San Marino in Belfast.

He added: "A point is a good start for us and we've got to capitalise on playing the likes of San Marino and make sure we go and win those games.

"We know the Germany game is going to be tough - we've seen that before - so we have to try and beat the so-called smaller nations, they're the main points that we need to try and pick up."

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph