Ward’s Christian faith helps him with football’s ups and downs

Joel Ward

Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward says his Christian faith keeps him grounded during football’s high and lows.

Ward’s spiritual side is integral to his life and some fans will notice he always kneels on the pitch to say a prayer just before kick-off.

The right back had seen his first-team chances limited due to the emergence of Aaron Wan-Bissaka last season.

But he is back in the team after Wan-Bissaka’s big-money transfer to Manchester United in the summer.

Palace’s current longest-serving player says his mental strength helped him cope with being on the sidelines for so long.

“I was here before [Wan-Bissaka] and I am here after so it doesn’t really make too much of a difference to me,” he told the Telegraph.

“Yes, last season I didn’t play as much but I have come back in and focused on the things that only I can focus on.

“Experience does play a part but it’s my mindset as well. I’m pretty strong-minded in the way I handle things. Last season I didn’t play a huge amount of games but I kept myself ready and when I did play I played well.

“And what has always been invaluable with that is my faith – it’s the constant I can hold on to because is in football it can be up and down, up and down.”

Ward knows all too well about the ups and downs, having scored a deflected goal against Wolves last Sunday and then making a mistake to allow them to equalise in stoppage time.

But the 29-year-old is hoping to bounce back against Norwich on Saturday and says he is enjoying playing under manager Roy Hodgson.

“The gaffer has been amazing,” he added. “His experience and the way in which he goes about things is second to none.

“What he has seen and what he has done in football, not just English football, is extremely valuable in keeping a squad of players happy.”