Saturday night will be emotional for Perth Glory’s Nick Ward should he get the nod to start against A-League rivals Newcastle Jets.
The 27-year-old is in the running to replace injured skipper Jacob Burns having made several impressive appearances off the bench in what is his second spell with his hometown club.
And he can’t wait to renew acquaintances with the Shed.
“They’ve always been great fans here,” he said.
“I remember when I was a kid being one of those fans and Glory have always been known for having that great support.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the Shed again, it would mean a lot if I got the chance to do that on Saturday.”
Having last turned out for the men in purple back in the A-League’s inaugural 2005-2006 season, Ward is well-placed to comment on just how much the domestic game has improved in the intervening years.
And he admits that he is reaping the benefits of the advances that have been made.
“The professionalism of not just the club but the whole league has just come on in leaps and bounds since I was here last time,” he said.
“We didn’t have sports scientists or the facilities that we can use now that we share with the Western Force.
“Now we’ve got gyms, ice baths and gps. and heart-rate monitors monitoring our load.
“That reduces your injuries and to be honest, my body feels the best it has felt.
“I get to do all the recovery and even though I haven’t been starting, the coaching staff are making me do extras so that I’m fit and have the capacity to come in if called upon and play 90 minutes.
“I’ve been really happy with the club and how everything’s working and with the coaching staff as well.”
The former Melbourne Victory, Queens Park Rangers and Brighton man also believes that his own game is improving thanks to the influence, ironically, of two of the men responsible for restricting him to bench duties up until now.
“We’ve got the likes of Liam Miller and Jacob Burns who are two of the best players in the league, so it’s a challenge for myself to get in, but I’m always up for a challenge and I’m learning from them.
“I’m learning a lot in terms of my defensive game from Burnsy and then you look at Liam whose touches are amazing, he’s got great feet and he’s pretty cool on the ball, doesn’t give it away much and creates a lot.
“It’s not great to lose a player of his (Jacob’s) calibre with him being the captain and the leader as well.
“He brings that fight if things aren’t going the right way, he’s always there doing the hard graft, winning the ball and getting stuck in and that spurs the rest of the team on, so he will be sorely missed.
“But we do have good strength in that area, so I’m sure we can fill the gap.”