BREW’S ALL RIGHT FOR JAMIE

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Ben Baker

JAMIE Ward in­sists Bur­ton Albion have what it takes to flour­ish in the Cham­pi­onship – some­thing he is hell-bent on prov­ing be­fore the end of his sea­son-long loan spell.

The for­ward went from the eu­pho­ria of rep­re­sent­ing North­ern Ire­land at Euro 2016 to re­al­is­ing that he wasn’t in new man­ager Philippe Mon­tanier’s plans at Nottingham For­est.

Af­ter just two EFL Cup games and one Cham­pi­onship start, Ward opted to leave and joined Nigel Clough’s newly-pro­moted Bur­ton Albion on Au­gust’s trans­fer dead­line day.

While the two teams’ for­tunes ap­pear sim­i­lar – with For­est just one place and a point bet­ter off than the Brew­ers in 20th – 30-year-old Ward has got his mojo back and has found the net four times in 17 games ahead of this week­end’s FA Cup clash at Premier League Wat­ford.

While play­ing reg­u­lar foot­ball is all well and good, Ward is the first to ad­mit it isn’t the same un­less you are winning, some­thing the Brew­ers have done just once in their last 11 league out­ings.

Strong

That one vic­tory came at fel­low strug­glers Rother­ham at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber and was their first on the road this sea­son.

And Ward is hope­ful that that re­sult, cou­pled with the fact Bur­ton have lost their last six games by a sin­gle goal, means his side will con­tinue to prove they are Cham­pi­onship ma­te­rial.

“We have per­formed well,” he said. “It is al­ways tough los­ing but it is es­pe­cially tough when you lose by just one goal when you de­served more.

“In the run that we are on I think As­ton Villa wouldn’t have com­plained if we got a point, and nei­ther would have New­cas­tle. We have been strong at home and the only team that de­served to beat us there was Brighton, and even then if they hadn’t got the penalty I don’t think they would have scored as we had been strong all game.

“So we have been great at home and hope­fully we turned a cor­ner with that win at Rother­ham. Hope­fully we can kick on and pick up more points on the road.

“The per­for­mances have not been a problem all sea­son, it is just get­ting that bit of luck.

“This league is so tough and it takes it out of you men­tally and phys­i­cally. We are there phys­i­cally but per­haps not quite men­tally, but now we have that away win hope­fully that will change.

“When I ar­rived at the club I didn’t think there was too much to worry about and I still think the same thing. As long as per­for­mances stay the same I am sure we can climb the ta­ble.”

Al­though the Brew­ers are in the midst of a six-game los­ing streak in the Cham­pi­onship, there was some per­sonal joy for Ward when the Brew­ers took on As­ton Villa on Box­ing Day.

Birm­ing­ham-born Ward is a Villa fan and came through the club’s academy, cap­tain­ing their

reserve team and play­ing in the 2004 FA Youth Cup fi­nal de­feat to Mid­dles­brough be­fore be­ing re­leased two years later.

He re­minded the club of his tal­ents when he lev­elled proceedings with an ac­ro­batic vol­ley, though Villa went on to win the game 2-1 to sum up Bur­ton’s sea­son to date.

“It was great to score against Villa, it is al­ways great to score and it was fan­tas­tic for me, but I would have much rather we won the game,” Ward added.

Ethic

“The three points are the most im­por­tant thing in any game, but es­pe­cially for Bur­ton as we are fight­ing to stay in this league. “I would have rather we won 1-0 and some­one else scored than the way it played out, but that is just the way it went.” This team ethic is what has made Ward such a good fit at Bur­ton, where he now watches on as his par­ent club For­est near an ex­pected takeover. That could have reper­cus­sions on Ward’s fu­ture, but he in­sists: “My main fo­cus is on Bur­ton. I am very happy play­ing foot­ball again and scor­ing goals. I thought it was a good move at the time and it has turned out to be ex­actly that. “It quickly be­came clear that I was not in the new man­ager’s plans at For­est and I wish him well and wish the club well. But I don’t think he knows his best team even now as he has chopped and changed so much. “I have not heard any­thing from For­est but there is a lot of talk about a takeover that I have read in the pa­pers, and who knows what will hap­pen. There could be new own­ers or even a new man­ager at the club when my loan fin­ishes at the end of the sea­son. “I have two-anda-half years left on my For­est con­tract, but I am play­ing games, scor­ing goals and en­joy­ing it at Bur­ton – long may that con­tinue.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

HEADS UP: Jamie Ward, right, du­els with Birm­ing­ham’s Michael Mor­ri­son In­set: Ward play­ing in the Eu­ros

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