I was recently asked by a well-known UK-based football magazine whether I would answer the Nottingham Forest fan questions for their season preview issue, which is released in shops on August 1st, to which I was only too happy to oblige.
One of the questions was ‘Who is the biggest pantomime villain in your league?’
My response, and a little sneaky peak into the magazine’s season preview issue for you, was: ‘Jamie Ward – but he now plays for us.’ High praise indeed for the new Forest man as I prepare to make my magazine debut, I hope you appreciate the mention Jamie!
Whilst a pantomime villain might come across as being quite harsh, it is something I believe that every single club needs in their starting eleven.
Ward might not always be the best player on the pitch, but few will match his work rate and even fewer will match his ability to get under the skin of every single person associated with the opposition on a Saturday afternoon – or Friday night if Sky Sports have their way!
I remember back in the days when Robbie Savage used to play. Few would ever say Savage was the best footballer in the world, but would he be one of the first names on the team-sheet at every club he was at? Absolutely he would have been purely because he had the ability to have an influence on a game without even needing to kick the ball. Ward offers a similar scenario.
I think the signing of the ex-Derby man is a fantastic acquisition for Nottingham Forest Football Club and after seeing his first interview since signing for the Reds, I am warming to the bloke already.
He said all the right things and whilst I appreciate that there is an element of saying the right things early to get the fans on side, Ward handled himself impeccably well in the interview.
He even had a wry smile when asked would he have said some of the things he said about Forest when he was at Derby if he thought one day he would end up playing for them.
His answer was fairly clear.
“I wouldn’t have said them no, but then in the build up to a derby game it is all about getting under the opposition’s skin and trying to play a bit of mind games with them.”
I look forward to his interview ahead of the Rams’ visit to the City Ground on November 7th.
He may have in fact started the mind games already after he stated no fewer than four times in this morning’s interview with BBC Radio Nottingham, that he was happy to have signed for a ‘big club.’
Fitness will inevitably be key to just how good Ward can be for Forest. If he stays fit then we have a really good signing on our hands.
The season before last when Derby reached the play-off final, Ward managed 38 starts for the Rams, yet a lot of their supporters tell me he is injury prone.
A player who has one bad season with a couple of niggling injuries does make him ‘injury prone’, a player who can ever put together a season of 38 starts shouldn’t be classed as that either.
Dougie Freedman talks really well about managing players and their fitness levels and with Ward we may have to tread carefully at the start of the season.
Once he is fit and raring to go though, I can’t wait to see him terrorising opposition teams down at the City Ground.