Walsall Football Club can today confirm that defender Stephen Ward has announced his decision to retire from professional football.
The 36-year-old has had an impressive career since moving to the Midlands back in January 2007 from Dublin-based League of Ireland side Bohemians where he joined local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Dublin-born left-back made his professional Football League debut as a substitute shortly after a successful trial with Wolves against Welsh outfit Cardiff City at Molineux.
His first goal in the Championship came on his full league debut against Plymouth Argyle, also at Molineux, where both sides would eventually go on to share the points in a 2-2 draw.
Following seven years with Wolves, one of which included a loan spell with South coast side Brighton and Hove Albion, Ward made the move to newly promoted side Burnley.
During his time with Burnley, Ward helped the Clarets win promotion to the Premier League as champions in the 2015-16 season as well as helping them reach the UEFA Europa League in the 2017-18 season.
In June 2019 following his release from Burnley, Ward signed an initial one-year contract with Sky Bet Championship side Stoke City but unfortunately for the Irishman, his time at the Bet365 Stadium was hampered by an injury which limited his playing time in the season where COVID-19 caused a huge disruption across the world.
At the end of his contract with the Potters, Ward secured himself a move to League One side Ipswich Town where he would go on to make 31 appearances in all competitions.
However, Ipswich opted against extending his contract at the end of the season and former Saddlers Head Coach Matt Taylor moved quickly to bring the vastly experienced defender to the Club.
Making his debut in front of nearly 1,300 travelling fans on the opening day of the season against Tranmere Rovers, Ward has made 30 appearances in all competitions for the Saddlers and he made his final professional appearance as the Saddlers secured their League Two status in the Good Friday win over Carlisle United at the Banks’s Stadium.
As well as having a successful Club career, Ward also represented his country at first team level earning 50 caps for the Republic of Ireland, featuring in two European Championships as well.
Following his decision to retire from football, Ward had this message for the Saddlers fans…
“I have decided to retire now as I feel my body is telling me it’s time to stop playing. I have really enjoyed my last season as a professional at Walsall and I am grateful to both Matt Taylor and Michael Flynn for how they have handled my last season. I want to thank all the players, staff, the Chairman and the fans for making it a very special year for me. Unfortunately we didn’t achieve what we wanted to on the pitch but I felt after securing our status in the league last Friday, it was a perfect time to stop and let the manager and lads finish the season strong and set them up for next season which I have no doubt will be a massive success. I have lived every kids dream. It is with a heavy heart that I have come to this decision but I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life. Thanks again, Wardy.”
As a Club we would like to thank Stephen for his contributions on and off the pitch this season and we would like to congratulate him on a hugely successful career.
We will have a further interview with Stephen coming out later today across all of our main social media channels as well as our official YouTube channel.