Time flies when the games come thick and fast. Just ask Stephen Ward who can hardly believe that it is almost 10 years since he was starting his professional career with Bohemians. Two goals on his debut against Skerries Town marked the Portmarnock
Time flies when the games come thick and fast. Just ask Stephen Ward who can hardly believe that it is almost 10 years since he was starting his professional career with Bohemians.
Two goals on his debut against Skerries Town marked the Portmarnock native as a promising striker to keep an eye on. Yet few observers back then could have predicted that he would become a solid left-back who would go on to play in two UEFA European Championships.
Ward's career has taken off at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brighton & Hove Albion, and, now, Burnley, largely thanks to his time spent at Bohemians. He has also racked up 49 senior caps for the Republic of Ireland, so his education in the League of Ireland certainly benefitted him.
"I've really fond memories of the League. It was a great grounding for me coming over [to England]," Ward said on the Greatest League In The World podcast.
“I was on trial [in England] and got offered a few contracts somewhere, but my mum and dad always had the belief that they wanted me to finish my education and do my Leaving Cert. You hear about so many lads going over and coming back, and it’s like starting again.
“At the time I was gutted not to go away, but the minute I signed for Bohs it was like going straight into the biggest league in the world, for me. It was full-time football and there were players in that team who were greats in the league at the time.
“As a 17-year-old, going in there to learn off them and be around these types of lads who had been in England, came back and were now at the top of the game in Ireland, it was great for me. It definitely gave me the grounding and it matured me as a man.
“If I’m being completely honest, I don’t know how I would have fared going over at 14, 15 or 16. I don’t know whether that would have been the right path for me. As a difference between Ireland and England, obviously the league was great for me but it’s a different scale over there. I don’t know how I would have handled the whole hype of it. It definitely made me a lot stronger for when I did eventually make the move over.”