Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira has hailed Joel Ward as a “positive role model” for any player coming through the club’s academy as the defender closes in on his decade of service.
Ward signed for the Eagles under Dougie Freedman in May 2012 from Portsmouth in a deal worth £400,000 and penned a new two-year extension last summer to ensure he reached his testimonial year.
The 32-year-old has played more than 300 games for Palace and has been a regular fixture in the side under Patrick Vieira.
“It is massively important,” said Vieira of Ward’s experience of the club.
“For me, it is really important to have these kinds of positive role models. When we’re talking about the young players that we want to bring through from the academy, they need to identify themselves with a really good example, and Wardy is one of them with his competitiveness on the field and his daily work to perform on the weekend.
“When we’re talking about those players who were under Roy Hodgson and really helped me to put my message through, Wardy is, of course, one of them.”
When asked whether players had to reinvent themselves to stay at a club for a considerable amount of time, Vieira, who spent nine years at Arsenal, where he won three Premier League titles, added: “It is more and more difficult now.
“It is about being in the right place where you can challenge yourself and knowing what you really want and what you’re really looking for.
“Sometimes, you have everything in front of you. I believe that Wardy has always been happy to play at this football club, and there is really a love, I would say, between him and this football club.
“There is the side where you have to fight to earn your place – you have to be ambitious as well to help the club to grow.
“Wardy is the type of person I believe that if he is happy somewhere, there is no reason to go anywhere else.”
Ward looks set to follow Julian Speroni by being rewarded with a testimonial at Selhurst Park.
“Palace are one of the football clubs who love to keep this kind of tradition going,” added Vieira.
“It is a good thing to do, and I don’t have any doubt about the 10 years he will be celebrating at this football club.”