KEITH WARD feared his senior football career was over before Derry City boss Kenny Shiels came calling last week and the midfielder views his move to Brandywell as his ‘last chance saloon’.
The former Dundalk and Sligo Rovers midfielder became Shiels latest signing, just over one week before the kick-off of the League of Ireland season and he claims it’s going to be a ‘make or break’ campaign for him as he attempts to revive his career.
Ward (26), who was part of Dundalk’s title winning squad in 2013 before sustaining a knee cruciate injury, was cast aside on the list of out-of contract players following a difficult year with Sligo Rovers last season.
As the league kick-off grew closer Ward feared he wasn’t going to get another chance to show what he could do at Premier Division level until he got a very welcome phone call from the Derry boss.
Ward was training with Limerick but when he realised a move to Brandywell was on the cards he jumped at the chance to show Shiels what he was all about in pre-season friendly matches against Sligo Rovers and then Glentoran last Tuesday night.
When a deal looked increasingly likely Ward spoke to ex-Dundalk teammate and former Derry City midfielder, Ruaidhri Higgins about the club and after a chat with Sligo Rovers skipper, Tim Clancy who played under Shiels at Kilmarnock, he was certain Derry City was the right choice.
There’s not many chances left after this so I see this as a big year in my career. If it doesn’t go well football can be very unforgiving.Keith Ward
However, he’s under no illusions after almost two-and-a-half frustrating years on the periphery at both Dundalk and Sligo Rovers, and he believes this could be his final chance!
“If it doesn’t work out for me at Derry this year then what’s left?” asked Ward. “I would say the last two-and-a-half years since my injury have been frustrating and this is a fresh start.
“There’s not many chances left after this so I see this as a big year in my career. If it doesn’t go well football can be very unforgiving.
“This year there wasn’t many phone calls and I was delighted that Kenny gave me a chance. I’m honestly looking forward to getting back playing.
“I spoke to a few players around the league and they told me not to worry, I would get signed. But then Christmas goes by, New Year goes by and then January goes and you begin to wonder if it’s going to happen.
“I just think, given the type of player I am, I can always get into a team with the way I play. I can play in a lot of different positions.
“I was down training with Limerick and I played under Martin (Russell) before but once Kenny rang me and I came up to train I was really hoping he would be happy with what he saw and I’m delighted he did.
“I don’t want to be in this situation next year again, waiting around. So I need to put the foot down this year and make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I do see this as my last chance saloon,” he continued. “I am looking at this as one of my final chances. I just feel Derry are a team I’ve always wanted to play for and I’m looking forward to getting into the team and start the season.
“I asked around and Tim Clancy who I played with at Sligo had played under Kenny at Kilmarnock so I asked him to see what he was all about and he said it would suit me playing under him. He likes to play football, get the ball down and play.
“And when I came up I saw the way we were playing and I settled in very well.
I’m looking forward to moving up to Derry now and getting back to playing football and enjoying myself.”