SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Ward’s fitness boost

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.

WARD: I’LL BE FIT TO FACE PILGRIMS

DARREN WARD says the disappointment of pulling out of the Wales squad this week has been balanced by the knowledge that he should be fine for Sunderland’s game against Plymouth Argyle this weekend.

The goalkeeper damaged his hamstring in the victory over Coventry City at the weekend and reluctantly pulled out of the Welsh squad to take on Northern Ireland tonight.

But he has consoled himself with the fact that his withdrawal means that he won’t risk aggravating an injury which could keep him out for weeks at a vital stage of the season. And he is confident of playing in the game away to the Pilgrims on Saturday.

He told the Echo: “Of course it’s a bit of a let-down that I wasn’t able to link up with the squad because playing for my country it important to me.

“This is the second time in a row I’ve been called up after dropping out of the squad in the couple of years previously and I was hoping to strengthen my claims for a regular call-up.

“I didn’t play in the last international, but it was great to be in the squad again and this time I was hoping to get a run-out.

“It could possibly have gone along but it would have been a risk with the hamstring strain and I know I’ve made the right decision because I should be clear to be involved in the game this weekend.”

The 32-year-old has spoken to Welsh boss John Toshack about the situation and is reassured that he is now part of the manager’s international plans.

And he hopes that his excellent form for Sunderland will keep him in the frame should, as expected, the hamstring strain prove to be no more than the most minor of setbacks.

He said: “I got injured in the first half of the Coventry game when I chased a loose ball which would have gone out for a corner. I managed to keep the ball in but I felt the hamstring when I got up.

“It’s mu kicking leg, which wasn’t ideal, and Marton Fulop was warmed up and ready to come on if I couldn’t continue at any stage.

“As it was, I was able to get through the game without much trouble and afterwards our physio said that the hamstring was ‘distressed’ rather than torn or genuinely strained.

“So hopefully a few days rest means I will be able to join in training towards the end of the week and continue in goal for the Plymouth game.

“I’m pretty confident that will be the case and I certainly hope so because we’ve got a good run of form going at the moment – 13 points from our last 15 – and everyone wants to stay in the side and finally get us up there into the play-off positions.”