Semi-Final Preview: Sam Ward

Sam Ward who scored twice for England against Spain in action for England Credit Stanislas Brochier

England vs. Germany is a sporting occasion steeped in history. From penalty shootout heartbreak to ruthless efficiency to the famous “Where were the Germans?” line, these two traditional sporting foes have gone toe-toe in their fair share of iconic sporting clashes.

Sam Ward’s international career is still in its infancy but the Holcombe striker has already seen up close what the reigning Olympic and European champions are capable of:

“They’re a good side. Their man to man marking is tight and they’re excellent in everything they do. Some of their players are really world class but if we do the basics well and stick to our plans we have a good chance.”

Despite the well known quality of their opponents, Ward feels England have grown into the tournament and have nothing to fear. There is a respect but not awe in the young man’s words:

“Overall we’ve done well. We were disappointed with the performance against the Dutch but we put that to bed and came out strongly against Spain. We know Germany are a class outfit, but we have our share of class players too. If we’re all firing, who knows what could happen?”

A factor in the success of failure of Bobby Crutchley’s side in this semi-final will surely be the support of the home crowd. Playing in front of a partisan set of fans in your home country has been a real boost for Ward and his teammates:

“This tournament has been very exciting. I’ve played in a couple now and the supporters that travel are great but there are only ever a small number of them. Here there are 5,000 people all cheering for you and it really gives you a boost.” he adds “It’s quite nerve wracking at times having a crowd where there are people you know watching, but I’ve learned very quickly to separate myself from that and to make sure I use the support to my advantage.”

The No13 has six goals in 12 games for England and earned his place in the central training squad after a number of prolific domestic seasons. Whilst the main weapon in his arsenal remains his prowess in front of goal, Ward has worked hard to improve his overall game in order to contribute to the needs of the team:

“When I first came into the squad I was all about scoring goals. I was desperate to get my name on the scoresheet every time. Now I’m working hard on my defensive awareness and trying to create chances for my teammates, too. It’s an old cliché but it doesn’t really matter who scores as long as we win.”

England are keen to shed their “nearly men” tag and pick up some big titles. Ward believes the support of a home crowd could help them get over the line and recapture the title they won in 2009:

“It’s an exciting time. We will do everything we can to win for the fans. Playing in front of the home crowd is special and we want to be in that final. Gold medals are what we want to be winning. We need to win the semi-final first, though. We’ll put everything into the semi-final with Germany and then see where we are.”

The stage is set, can Ward and his team make their way into the dream final in their home country? We don’t have to wait long to find out!

Tickets are still available to come and see the action first hand. Visit www.eurohockey2015.co.uk/tickets for all the details.