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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nick Ward's "Strong Words" About John Gregory

The Australian - Olyroo happy to escape English bully Ray Gatt | December 14, 2007

FOR every Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Lucas Neill who makes the big time in Europe, there are hundreds who learn quickly that the bright lights of international football can be a terrible pitfall.

Many return to Australia never to be seen again, while some re-group, pick up the pieces then return for a second tilt much wiser and with a harder edge.

Talented Nick Ward has no doubts what category he will fit into after returning to Australia, following a failed stint with Queens Park Rangers, to resurrect his career with Melbourne Victory. You cannot mistake the fire in the belly that will ensure the 22-year-old finds his way back to Europe, even though his stint with QPR in the second-flight English championship left a sour taste and almost destroyed his love of the game.

Ward admitted yesterday he was close to depression after his dream move to England turned into a disaster.

After a bright start for QPR, Ward found himself on the outer with then coach John Gregory -- a dour, gruff Englishman who once coached Aston Villa in the Premier League. "We just didn't see eye to eye, and I don't know why," Ward said yesterday.

"It seems that as far as he was concerned, Australians couldn't play the game and that the English (players) were all that counted."

Ward unloaded on Gregory, describing him as a "bully".

"He was almost at the point of bastardisation," Ward said.

"I just didn't rate him as a person or a coach. He tried to intimidate you.

"He was a bully and I learned nothing at all from him. Football-wise, he just didn't give me a chance.

"I like to play in the centre midfield, but he always used me wide or threw me on in the last few minutes as a striker and they would pump long balls to me."
Ward managed 23 appearances and one goal for QPR before going on loan to League One club, Brighton.

He thought it was a good move -- a chance to get some football under his belt and get away from a club that was in deep trouble with three coaches coming and going in the short time he was there.

"The club suggested it (the move) to me and I thought it would be a good idea ... I was wrong," Ward said. "It was the worst move I could have made. I hated it.

"It was at that stage that I got really depressed. I had enough and I even thought about chucking football away."

After eight games and one goal, Ward opted to go back to QPR even though he knew he would not get any game time.

"I reasoned I was better off there than at Brighton, that's how tough things were."

Ward, who played 23 matches and scored five goals for Perth Glory in the inaugural 2005-2006 A-League season before going overseas, sought advice from several people, including Olyroos coach Graham Arnold and former Socceroos and Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who has been trialling at QPR.

"They were both great," he said. "Bozza just suggested I should come back home, get myself together again, then give Europe another shot. He did that when he was younger and he came out the better for it. I took the advice and here I am now at Melbourne."

Despite his problems, Ward said he has no regrets about the English experience. "None, really," he said. "I jumped at the chance to go over there ... who wouldn't? I know it didn't work out, but I learned a lot about what happens on and off the field. I was probably a bit too naive ... I took people on trust. But it was a good lesson for me. I'll bit a bit more street-wise next time."

The midfielder said he could now concentrate on his football, both with Melbourne and the Olyroos. Ward, who has signed with Victory until the end of the Asian Champions League campaign in June, believes the Beijing Games next year will provide the stepping stone to get back to Europe.

"Playing at the Olympics will be an honour and a huge thing for me," he added. "Not only will I represent my country at one of the biggest sporting shows in the world, but I'll get the chance to show what I can do.

"Obviously there will be scouts from all over the place watching the football tournament and it is going to be a real opportunity for me and the rest of the guys."
The Australian

HERALD SUN - Victory signing Nick Ward just wants to play
Grantley Bernard

THERE was one very good reason Nick Ward signed with Melbourne Victory after an up-and-down time with English club Queen's Park Rangers.

"I miss playing," Ward said yesterday. "The only time I was really playing was with (the QPR) reserves and when I'd go away with the Australian (Olympic) team. And the reserves league over there is not really that great."

So when Victory football operations manager Gary Cole and coach Ernie Merrick got on the phone to London a couple of weeks ago, Ward heard their pitch, weighed up a few other options, and decided Melbourne was the place to be.

Having played the first A-League season with Perth Glory, Ward is not coming in blind to the competition, even though almost three-quarters of the season has been completed.

The bottom line is the attacking midfielder wants to develop his game and he sees the chance to play in the Asian Champions League as an excellent bonus.

"It's a good opportunity for me," Ward said. "It's one of the biggest clubs in Australia.

"I remember watching last year, and they did so well, and I'm looking forward to playing with them.

"There was other interest, but I spoke to Ernie and the Asian Champions League stood out as well, to be a part of that."

Ward also spoke to Olyroos coach Graham Arnold and former Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Bosnich about returning to Australia in a bid to get his career back on track.

Both Arnold and Bosnich told Ward the A-League was a good path to follow if he wanted to eventually return to Europe, which is his goal.

"Everyone wants to go back to Europe and that's where I want to be playing, but I've got to get right and back playing," Ward said.

"I haven't said I'm staying for six months and I'm gone. I'm just going to see how I go and get match fit."

The experience with QPR, which included a loan spell with Brighton, was an eye-opener for Ward, who followed his dream but was soon confronted by the rude reality of professional football in England.

"I just have had a bit of a tough time in England with QPR, with different managers," Ward said.

"I probably had four of them there in my time. It was tough. I was going away with the Olyroos and coming back and not really in the eye of the coaches." Herald Sun

Also: Nick Ward's Other Comments

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