Roy Hodgson’s starting line-up for the Eagles game against Fulham on the opening day may have been very telling for some players on his plans for the upcoming season.
Joel Ward has been a real mainstay in the Crystal Palace first team line-up even since his arrival in South London from Portsmouth in 2012. When Ward arrived at Palace, he had a reputation as a versatile player who could play in midfield, in the centre or the right-side, as well as at full-back.
In the seasons that followed, he nailed down his place as the first choice right-back at Selhurst Park. A key part of the promotion winning campaign, he has been a mainstay in the starting line up ever since the Eagles won promotion back to the Premier League.
The 28-year-old right-back lost his place to academy product Aaron Wan-Bissaka after an injury last season. Although he looked to win his spot back upon his return, Hodgson opted for the 20-year-old ahead of Ward in the opening fixture at Craven Cottage this season. With Joel Ward fully fit, this shows an intent that Hodgson has chosen his first-choice right-back for this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had a very solid game at right back, helping the Eagles secure a clean sheet as well as assisting Wilfried Zaha for Palace’s second goal.
At his age, Joel Ward should be in the prime of his career. It is unlikely he will be satisfied playing a back-up role to the 20-year-old academy product, particularly after being first choice for such a long time at Selhurst Park. Joel Ward may already have his eyes on a move away from South London in January or at the end of the season.