Jamie Ward was included in the starting line-up for Nottingham Forest’s Under 23-side yesterday against Sheffield United.
Did you even realise he was still at the City Ground? Probably not. He hasn’t made a first team appearance for the Reds since ‘that’ 3-0 defeat to Preston North End last January. In Ward’s defence, he didn’t come on until the 77th minute so can’t be deemed at fault for that particular defeat.
Considering he hasn’t made a single appearance since then, it’s a surprise that he’s still on the club’s books. Having spent the first half of the season on loan at Charlton Athletic, he was expected to move on this January. However, he wasn’t even able to secure a move away.
According to the Nottingham Post, League One side Walsall were very interested in taking the 32-year-old on loan until the end of the season. It’s unknown why this particular move never materialised on Deadline Day.
Ward was one of a number of fringe players the Reds were looking to move on last month. Zach Clough and Liam Bridcutt also fell into that category. However, Clough was the only one of the trio to depart the City Ground. He rejoined Rochdale on loan until the end of the season.
A mistake to avoid moving forward
The former Derby County forward originally joined the Reds in July 2015. Due to the financial restrictions Dougie Freedman had to work within at the time, Ward was offered a longer contract due to certain wage restrictions. This resulted in him signing a four-year contract at the club.
Considering he was 29-years-old on his arrival, it’s unlikely that the club would’ve wanted to propose such a long contract. However, there was no other way of persuading players to join the club at the time. They had to offer longer contracts to make up for the wage cap they were working with.
Now that the Reds are no longer restricted by those regulations, they have the ability to make more pragmatic decisions in regards to contracts. Of course, this could easily change again if they were to break Financial Fair Play regulations for a second time. This seems unlikely under the current ownership though.
The fact that Ward seemingly has little chance of breaking into Martin O’Neill’s side makes the second half of the season a write off for him personally. It also means that the club is forking out a considerable wage on a player with no first team prospects. The only positive is that he’ll be off the club’s books soon.
It’s easy to forget his previous contribution
It was Aitor Karanka who made the decision that Ward had no future at the City Ground at the end of last season. Once his loan move to Charlton had been confirmed, Ward was very open about the situation he found himself in at Forest.
He told the South London Press: “It has been a long time since I trained with first-team footballers this season. Apart from when I’m away with Northern Ireland I’ve been with the rest of the lads in the bomb squad.
“It was horrific. It depends how you get treated and that varies from club to club. I know a lot of clubs where you are treated a lot better than we were at Forest.
“It wasn’t great at the start. Things got better eventually, because they had to. There are guidelines they have to follow, things like that.”
Despite a seemingly prolonged and painful end to his career with the Reds, it’s important to remember his previous contributions for the club. If it wasn’t for his performance against Ipswich Town on the last day of the 2016/17 campaign, then the Reds could well have been relegated to League One.