When Stephen Ward signed for Burnley back in 2014, the move was met with some puzzlement amongst Clarets fans, but he has since gone on to establish himself as a key player in Burnley’s starting 11.
It was a late move from Sean Dyche to hijack Brighton’s bid to sign Ward, which lead to the Irish left back making the switch to Turf Moor, in a move worth around £350,ooo; an absolute bargain I’d say!
Despite being a left back by trade, Ward’s first start in Claret and Blue came at The King Power Stadium, where he played in centre midfield and impressed and played a big part in the Clarets picking up a crucial away point.
In Ward’s first season at Burnley, it didn’t take him long to displace Ben Mee and left back and once he got in there, he made that place his own.
Results also picked up with Ward’s introduction. Shortly after he made his Burnley bow, the Clarets picked up their first Premier League win against Hull, which was quickly followed up with an away win at Stoke.
However, his progress was halted in a home game against Newcastle in December, fracturing his foot during the 1-1 home draw with Newcastle, which cruelly cut his season short.
Ward then became a bit-part player up until 28th December 2016, Bristol City at home, when his Burnley career really took off.
A defensive reshuffle saw then left back, Ben Mee, step into centre back, opening up the left back slot for Ward to make his own, and he certainly has done.
When Ward came into the team, the Clarets went 23 undefeated. I’m not saying that it was solely down to Ward, but he certainly played a key role in a back four that has never been broken up since.
He has never been displaced since and has been a near ever present, only for a couple of games when he picked up a knock and Jon Flanagan deputised.
Mee and Ward have an almost unbreakable relationship together in the left side of a solid defence, but I feel as though Mee almost overshadows the great work Ward does.
Most of the work Ward does will often go unnoticed, but he is willing to get up and down the wing, supplying the strikers with service and he is solid defensively too.
Not many players have had joy against Ward this season, and for me, Ward should be a contender to claim the Clarets’ player of the season.
The passion he shows as well is undoubted, he would throw himself at anything to keep the ball out of the net and I think he epitomises what a Sean Dyche team is all about.
Win, lose or draw, Ward is always first over the Burnley fans to show his appreciations, which just highlights how much he actually cares about the club, which unfortunately cannot be said for some of the other players in the squad.
Once Robbie Brady settles into life at Turf Moor, I think that we could have a left side of real quality, going forward and defensively.
I think Sean Dyche will look for a left back in the summer as Jon Flanagan will be heading back to Liverpool, but anyone who comes in will have a huge job on their hands to replace Stephen Ward!