Championship opinion – Three ideal destinations for Stephen Ward
Premier League side Burnley have released quite a few players whose contracts were up this summer. One of them was full-back Stephen Ward, who ends his five-year stay at the club following a move from Wolves back in 2014.
The 33-year-old can play at left-back or left-sided midfield and was one of the consistent starters for the Clarets up until the end of 2017/18 season.
However, injuries in certain moments and Charlie Taylor doing well in that position meant that manager Sean Dyche didn’t use the veteran too often during the recently-concluded campaign. As a result, he could only manage to make three Premier League appearances.
Hence, it makes sense from Burnley’s point of view that they didn’t extend his contract beyond this summer. Now, with the Irishman a free agent, here are the three Championship clubs that should look to make a move for him:
At the start of the concluded season, the Whites had Barry Douglas as their first-choice left-back option. Gaetano Berardi could be used there if the manager wants.
However, with the former suffering a long-term injury in the second half of the campaign and the latter not available too, Marcelo Bielsa was forced to play with Ezgjan Alioski, a left winger, at left-back.
It was probably one of the reasons why Leeds were lacklustre defensively in the latter stages and eventually got eliminated in the playoff semifinal.
Therefore, they must sign a new left-back this summer, partly to have more options in that area because a Championship season is long and tiring, and partly because they need someone else with quality.
For that reason, Stephen Ward could be an ideal option for the club. The Irishman is an experienced player, who can help other young players in the team. His quality of play is pretty decent too.
Derby had Scott Malone as their first-choice left-back, with veteran Ashley Cole arriving in January. Marcus Olsson and Max Lowe is also an option, but the former’s contract is up this summer and the latter is still a young player learning his trade.
Furthermore, Cole came here on a six-month deal, hence, he will leave Pride Park as well.
Therefore, ahead of next season, the Rams could be left with only Malone as their lone left-back option. So, it makes perfect sense for them to offer a deal to free agent Stephen Ward.
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Boro’s captain George Friend was their only left-back/left wing-back option during the season. When he got injured, George Saville, who is a midfield player by trade, played in that position.
Hence, if the club are to enhance their squad depth with quality, they should contemplate on making a move for Stephen Ward.
The 33-year-old can also play as a left-back/left-sided midfielder/left wing-back.
Furthermore, his experience of the top-flight would help the Boro squad to be focused on their target of achieving promotion as soon as possible.