Belfast Telegraph

Ward's feeling ready to show O'Neill what he's all about

By Stuart McKinley

Frustrating is the word that Jamie Ward uses to describe his stop-start international career so far.

Four and a half years after his first call-up to the Northern Ireland squad and two years on from his debut, the 27-year-old has only collected four caps and made just one start.

And that has made him determined to take his frustrations out on Russia and Portugal in Northern Ireland's next two home games – starting against Fabio Capello's side at Windsor Park tomorrow night.

"I've had a few injuries over the last year or so and it's obviously put my international career back a little bit," said Ward.

"When I have done well at my club I always seem to have picked up an injury when the international games come round.

"That's been the most frustrating part of the last 18 months.

"Hopefully that is all behind me now and I can look forward.

"I wouldn't mind getting the chance to take my frustrations out on Russia and Portugal.

"It would be nice to get a game against both of them, obviously putting yourself up against some of the best players in the world is always a challenge."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has wanted to have Ward in his team since he took the job at the start of last year.

And Ward is urging manager Michael O'Neill to play him up front alongside Kyle Lafferty against the Russians if he wants to see him at his best.

"I'm not really sure what the manager sees in me, but I've got a little bit of pace, I can score goals given chances and I maybe provide a bit of attacking flair," said Ward.

"Given the right kind of service I can score goals.

"If I play wide I prefer to play on the left side because then I have a choice of going either way – left or right – but I enjoy playing up front as well, in a two.

"For the majority of last season I played up front in a two, but this season I've played on the left.

"Kyle Lafferty is a bit similar to Conor Salmon at Derby. He works hard, puts a lot of effort in and defences worry about them too much and leave a bit of space and it's good to play with people like that."

Ward's only start in a Northern Ireland shirt came in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup campaign, against Russia in Moscow last September.

Although Northern Ireland suffered a 2-0 defeat there was an overriding feeling that a point had been there for the taking.

"At the end of the game we felt we could have got something out of the game. It was a dodgy penalty decision, but that's referees for you," said Ward.

"It was a little bit difficult because defending isn't one of my strong points and there was a lot of defending to do in that game.

"Hopefully this time if I play I will get a bit more of the ball and we'll put on an attacking display.

"We want to come away with something, that's the most important thing."

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