Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan: Jamie Ward gutted by injury woe but tips his pals to flourish

By Laure James

Jamie Ward has opened up over the misery of missing Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan on Friday.

The Nottingham Forest front man, currently on loan at Burton Albion, fractured his wrist in action against Barnsley at the weekend and is booked in for an operation tomorrow.

Ward said: "I hope I'll only be out for four weeks or so, but it depends on how the surgery goes.

"I'm gutted, obviously. I'm devastated. I was enjoying getting back into a good rhythm and playing well, scoring for Burton, but it's one of those things. At least it's an injury I can protect, and it wasn't my hamstring.

"The ball got kicked out, I went to close down the defender and the ball was smashed straight at me.

"I felt something, but it wasn't very painful to be honest. I felt a little 'clunk', and thought, 'that's not too bad', but then I looked at it and it was misshapen."

Ward was officially ruled out of Friday's qualifier at Windsor Park, and the friendly with Croatia on Tuesday, two days ago, but knew he was in trouble as soon as he trudged off the pitch.

"I tried to pull it back into place, but I knew straight away I would need to come off and that I'd miss the internationals," he said.

"I messaged the Northern Ireland team doctor while on the way to the hospital, and the advice was to sit back and wait for the X-rays, but I guess that was just them being optimistic and trying to give me hope."

The Birmingham-born ace will be cheering on his international team-mates, even if it's just on the television.

But he's backed Michael O'Neill's men to do a job on Azerbaijan, who sit three points above them in second and are yet to concede in this campaign.

"Kyle (Lafferty) got some game time at the weekend and scored a goal, which will have lifted him. He needed a big lift to be honest," added Ward.

"It's been a long time for him not to have played, but he knows what he has to do if he wants to stay in the team, with Will Grigg back and Josh Magennis and Conor Washington on his shoulder.

"We know what he can do at this level, and he'll hopefully start scoring goals now like he did in the last campaign.

"Of course I back the lads. Hopefully they'll go and win and put us up there. Going into this long break and sitting in second all the way to March would be great, it will give us an edge mentally and put us in a good place.

"It'll show the last campaign wasn't a fluke, that we're a very good, capable team and hopefully we've half a chance of repeating it and getting to the World Cup."

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