Ward won’t let Norwich City down, says Lambert
Defender Elliott Ward is ready for his return to first team football with Norwich City, manager Paul Lambert insists.
Ward was on the bench for the 3-0 Premier League defeat at Sunderland 10 days ago, without getting on to the field, his only involvement in the senior squad this season after suffering a knee injury on the pre-season tour of Germany.
But with Daniel Ayala ruled out for several weeks and Zak Whitbread rated “wait and see” for today’s game against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium (3pm), Ward could make his first appearance of the campaign – and Lambert will be happy to call on him if needed.
He said: “He is doing OK, Elliott. He has trained really, really fine for the last few number of weeks now.
“He had 60 or 70 minutes in a reserve game so I wouldn’t have any fear about throwing him in. He will come into my thinking.”
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It has been a tough six months for Ward, who played 39 of City’s 46 Championship games en route to promotion last season, but Lambert praised his strength of character.
He said: “Wardy’s been great. He’s had his ups and downs like everybody else when you have a long-term injury.
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“You get the rehab to a certain point then you hit the brick wall and then you go over the wall and kick on again.
“He’s more than happy now to get going. I’ve had chats with him to keep his spirits up. Being a footballer you know he’ll have had his bad days but you pick them up and let them go again. He’s all right. He’s ready if I ask him to play.
“It has been prolonged. The knee kept on flaring up every time he trained but thankfully that seems to have been dismissed now. One thing about Wardy, he won’t let us down. I wouldn’t have any fears about putting him in.”
Leon Barnett, with just two substitute appearances in 12 matches since the 5-1 defeat at Manchester City, is another option at centre-back if Whitbread is ruled out.
“Leon is the same, in the same situation. He is fit, ready to go,” said Lambert. “I know it is tough for him not playing as many games as he would probably like. But he has played a major part in what has happened to this club.”
Full-back Marc Tierney, out for more than seven weeks apart from one reserve team outing, will not feature in South Wales.
“No, Marc is still out. I’m not overly concerned. It’s a groin problem. He has had an injection in it and we hope that will calm things down,” said the City boss.
But whatever XI he settles on against the Swans, Lambert is not worried about his defence.
“Whoever comes in I expect to go and perform, which the lads will, they never let me down. I’m a great believer in that. I don’t feel weakened or anything like that,” he said.
“All you can ask at the end of the day is for people to give you everything they have got. I don’t have any ounce of trepidation about putting anybody in.”
New signing Jonathan Howson is still training separately from the squad as he continues his recovery from the knee injury he suffered with Leeds in December.
“I hope it won’t be too long before he comes back in,” said Lambert. “He is still working away from us but I had a chat with him on Thursday and he is quite buoyant about things so he will be a big player when he is ready.”
Lambert believes striker James Vaughan, out since September after a knee operation, will need another reserve game before being ready for a first team recall.
City have an away game scheduled against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Premier Reserve League on Tuesday, and a home game against Arsenal on Tuesday week.