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Danny Ward keeps close eye on Wrexham as Wales prepare for World Cup play-off

Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward is targeting World Cup glory next month (David Davies/PA)
Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward is targeting World Cup glory next month (David Davies/PA)

Danny Ward is hoping for a perfect end-of-season double with Wales qualifying for the World Cup and boyhood club Wrexham returning to the Football League after a 14-year absence.

Goalkeeper Ward is back in the Wales squad after missing the World Cup play-off victory over Austria in March following knee surgery.

Since then, Ward has made his Premier League debut for Leicester and could now reclaim the Wales number one jersey from Wayne Hennessey for the World Cup play-off final against Scotland or Ukraine on June 5.

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City – Emirates FA Cup – Fourth Round – City Ground
Danny Ward made his Premier League debut for Leicester earlier this month, nearly four years after joining the club (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It is massive,” Ward said of a Cardiff contest which will decide whether Wales qualify for what would be only their second World Cup, and their first for 64 years.

“But as a group it’s not something we need to keep discussing.

“Before we were Welsh footballers we were Welsh fans, so we understand what the nation wants.

“It’s about the opportunity to get to a World Cup and we’ve put ourselves in a great position to do that.

“We want to get over the line and provide something that we haven’t done for so long, but it’s not a case of changing anything.

“We’re preparing for the Poland game next week, because if you prepare to the level you’re used then you should produce.”

Robert Page’s Wales squad are training in Portugal ahead of Wednesday’s Nations League opener against Poland in Wroclaw.

But Ward is hoping to watch Wrexham’s National League play-off semi-final against Grimsby on Saturday.

“We’re training here on Saturday morning and I’ve already asked the staff if they can get the Wrexham game on TV for me after that,” said Ward, who began his career at his hometown club but never made a first-team appearance before joining Liverpool in 2012.

“I was full-time as a YTS just after the club had been relegated (from the Football League) and even through the dark days you could see how big the club is.

“The owners (Hollywood actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds) have come into the club and galvanised everyone there.

“I went to Notts County away and I was among thousands of Wrexham fans, it’s not something I’ve seen for a long time.

Wrexham Press Conference – Racecourse Ground
Hollywood actors Rob McElhenney (left) and Ryan Reynolds (right) bought Wrexham in 2021 (Peter Byrne/PA)

“It’s chalk and cheese from the club I was at all those years ago, and everything is moving in the right direction.

“Hopefully it’s a matter of time before we’re back in the League, and that time is in the next few weeks.”

Ward’s former clubs Liverpool and Huddersfield also have big games this weekend.

Liverpool play Real Madrid in the Champions League final and Huddersfield are in action against Nottingham Forest in Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Real Madrid v Liverpool – UEFA Champions League – Final – NSK Olimpiyskiy Stadium
Gareth Bale celebrates scoring for Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool (Nick Potts/PA)

Ward said: “This time of the season is crunch time and I’ve got my eyes on a few games, but as long as Wrexham do the business I’ll be a happy man.”

The 28-year-old was part of Liverpool’s travelling squad for the 2018 Champions League final, when Wales captain Gareth Bale scored twice in Real’s 3-1 victory.

But Ward says he is not bothered if Bale arrives on Wales camp with a fifth Champions League winner’s medal or as a Paris loser.

He said: “He took away a winner’s medal of mine in Kyiv when he came on and changed the game with a ridiculous overhead kick.

“It would be nice for Gareth to end his time in Madrid on a high, we know how much of a legend he is regardless of what is said over in Spain.

“But I don’t think it matters whether he wins or loses. We’d still get the same Gareth turning up to camp.”