When Dougie Freedman paid £400k to sign Joel Ward from Portsmouth in 2012, few would have predicted that the defender would remain at Crystal Palace ten years later.
The English defender arrived at Selhurst Park in May 2012 on a four-year deal and has been an incredible servant for the club in the decade since, making 310 appearances for the Eagles, in which he has contributed five goals and ten assists.
Even at 32, Ward is still an important member of Patrick Vieira’s squad, as he has featured in five of Palace’s six Premier League fixtures so far this season, while he was a regular under the Frenchman in his debut campaign as manager, making 28 appearances in the top flight.
While this season could be Ward’s last at Selhurst Park as his contract is set to expire next summer, there is little doubt that he will go down as a club icon, as he is one of Palace’s top appearance makers in the Premier League, having held the record in 2017.
The defender, who earns £35k per week, was heavily praised by Vieira last season, which emphasises how well Freedman did to spot his talent in 2012, as he is still having a big impact in the team now.
Vieira said: “Joel is one of the warriors. He is somebody that if you are going into a fight, you will want to take him with you because you know that he will be there. He is open-minded, and it is really a pleasure working with him because of his focus, his work ethic, and he is a lovely man as well. I am not surprised at all that he is doing that well.”
Ward ranked in the top six for tackles, interceptions and clearances in Vieira’s side last season which demonstrates how much he still has to offer in the Premier League, and it may not be a surprise to see him extend his stay further by signing a new contract at the club.
Regardless of whether or not he stays or performs well this summer, there is no doubt that Freedman’s decision to sign him for just £400k from Portsmouth was a genius one.