Wolverhampton Wanderers' Stephen Ward has received a resounding appraisal by his boss and former Ireland coach Mick McCarthy, as the player dives into international duty for his country.
Ward helped the Republic national team to a goalless draw with UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group B leaders Russia on Tuesday, but to McCarthy the striker's call-up to the side comes as no surprise.
"It's just more confirmation what I've known and thought for a long time. But it's nice for him to be saying it. He's never done anything other than play well for me, whether it be left-back, wide left, centre forward," said McCarthy.
"But he has started the season very well. I thought he had a good pre-season and before that, he had a good pre-season and, for the football he played, he was probably one of the best players on the pitch for that game against Blackburn at the end of the season.
"I know he played up front, but he played well for me last season in a number of positions."
The Wolves boss believes the 26-year-old has been getting better throughout his four years and 148 appearances for the West Midlands club, and now has the full backing of the fans at Molineux too.
"There's no doubt about it, he's a Premier League player and he's improved year on year, every single season," he continued.
"He's made himself better and won a whole bunch of fans over as well. People perhaps didn't always give him the love and respect that he deserves in my eyes. He's been terrific. I'm delighted he's getting the recognition from everyone now.
"He will carry on improving because he's getting the experience from playing at international level which will make him player. He's playing against different countries, different shapes, systems and teams. Different experiences too - such as Russia last night on an artificial pitch when they needed to win in a hostile environment.”
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