Elliott Ward played his part in a memorable Norwich City chapter
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
So, farewell then, Elliott Ward. Excuse the borrowed phrase from Private Eye, but that seems to be the logical conclusion after the Norwich City defender yesterday re-joined Nottingham Forest on loan for the rest of the season.
The centre-back’s contract at Carrow Road is up at the end of the current campaign and as he did not feature in Chris Hughton’s Premier League squad of 25 for the first half of the campaign, and will not figure in it for the remaining four months, he has surely played his last game in Canary colours.
Hughton admitted as much when he said he hoped Ward, 28 next week, would be able to secure a full-time move to the City Ground.
The 1-0 Capital One Cup win against Doncaster in September proved to be his 55th and final senior appearance for the Canaries, while his inclusion as one of the unused substitutes in the FA Cup tie at Peterborough last Saturday was his last match day involvement.
Asked if the move to the Championship side would lead to a permanent switch, Hughton said: “Yes, probably. It will depend, of course, how he does and I am hoping he does well enough that Forest would like to offer him something at the end of that loan period.
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“I know they’ve had a few problems of late but they have taken him back on the strength of what they have seen in the first period of the season when he was there. I certainly hope that leads to something permanent for him.”
It is a measure of how quickly times change that many of City’s central defenders from last season have since moved on, Zak Whitbread to Leicester, where one-time loanee Ritchie De Laet also ended up, and both Ward and Daniel Ayala in loan deals to Forest.
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Ryan Bennett, Leon Barnett and Russell Martin remain, but have largely had to play second fiddle to current first-choice pair Michael Turner and Sébastien Bassong, with all but one of Martin’s appearances coming in his more customary role as full-back.
In May 2010, Ward became the second of former boss Paul Lambert’s summer recruits for Championship football following the release of Gary Doherty after City had won the League One title.
Ward played 39 of City’s 46 Championship games to help them to runners-up spot and promotion to the Premier League and his contribution should not be forgotten. After a mid-season injury, he returned to score his only goal for the club in the 2-1 home win over Millwall – and stayed there for the remaining 17 games, in which the Canaries were beaten only twice, forming an effective centre-back pairing with Whitbread and sharing in that great promotion night at Portsmouth.
It was unfortunate that his final three Premier League outings last season ended in defeat and did not see him at his best, but he had played his part in a truly memorable period in club history and I’m sure City fans will remember that and wish him well.
Ward made 12 appearances for Forest in a nine-week spell and now has a chance to make a fresh start.
He said yesterday: “It feels good to be back. I knew something might happen with Forest and it was just a case of waiting and hoping.
“I’m glad things have been sorted out because I really enjoyed my initial loan spell with the club.
“The deal is to see if the manager is happy with me and if he is hopefully a permanent move will be there at the end of my loan.”
• IS THIS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
There is something rather inequitable about the knock-on effect of fixtures being moved around because of live TV coverage.
The Canaries’ Premier League home game against Tottenham has been moved back 24 hours to Wednesday, January 30, at 7.45pm, because Spurs are involved in a televised FA Cup fourth round tie at Birmingham or Leeds on Sunday, January 27, with a 2pm kick-off. It is deemed unfair to expect Spurs to play at Norwich on the Tuesday night when they have had a Sunday afternoon fixture.
Yet because of the switch, City now have one day fewer to recover and prepare for their lunchtime Premier League kick-off at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, February 2, which has a 12.45pm start.
Tottenham, of course, have no such worries as their own Premier League fixture that weekend, at West Bromwich Albion, is not played until Sunday, February 3, with a 1.30pm kick-off, more than 24 hours later than City’s trip to Loftus Road.
The reason? It has been chosen for live TV coverage.
• DON’T MISS STARS OF THE FUTURE
There is one anniversary that could easily get overlooked in the hubbub of Premier League life and, one hopes, an FA Cup run for City in the weeks ahead.
It is 30 years since Dave Stringer’s young Canaries pulled off a memorable FA Youth Cup and South East Counties League double.
A few of that 1983 side went on to play a part in some of the club’s most notable achievements – winger Louie Donowa as a Milk Cup winner, full-back Tony Spearing as one of the team that finished fifth in Division One under Ken Brown, and midfielder Jeremy Goss as the star of the UEFA Cup games against Bayern Munich.
Next Wednesday the current City Under-18s hope to maintain their own FA Youth Cup campaign with a fourth round tie at home to Millwall at Carrow Road.
It would be fitting if some of the youngsters on show were to follow their predecessors into first team football, and with Jacob and Josh Murphy just awarded professional contracts, their progress in particular will be watched with keen interest.
Those with a free evening on Wednesday should take a look.