Jamie Ward can give us extra bit of flair up front, says Nigel Clough
NIGEL Clough believes a fit-again Jamie Ward can give Derby County a bit of extra attacking quality.
Ward is expected to return to the Rams squad for today's Championship clash with Charlton Athletic at the Valley after three months out with a torn hamstring.
The 26-year-old forward has missed 16 matches since he limped out of the 1-0 victory at Nottingham Forest in late September, having netted four goals in eight appearances.
Clough feels Derby have sorely missed one of their most creative players.
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"He is capable of providing that bit of quality that could help us out in games like the one at Burnley on Boxing Day," said the Rams boss.
"We've still got to be cautious with him but we hope he will be in the 18 against Charlton.
"It's a lot of games to miss and he was playing so well before the injury. He looked a major threat for us.
"I don't think we've got a strong enough squad to lose people like him and not miss him.
"Sometimes you lose a key player for two or three games but we can't afford to lose one for that amount of time."
Ward is unlikely to start at Charlton but, if he comes off the bench, he could fill one of several positions.
The Northern Ireland international could partner Conor Sammon up front, operate just off the front man or on either wing.
"It depends what formation we go with but Jamie certainly gives us another option out wide," said Clough.
"He also showed at the start of the season that he was forming a good partnership up front with Conor."
Ward had hoped to be back in action sooner but suffered a setback when he initially returned to training towards the end of October.
"I had a recurrence of the injury in training before the Peterborough game, which is why I've been out for longer than expected," he said. "It was obviously just a bit too soon for me.
"I have had problems in the past but not for about three years before this.
"I've done both hamstrings in the past and no doubt I will do them again.
"I'm going to be a bit cautious at first and I think that's understandable, with my history.
"But we're doing everything we can to reduce the risk of them going again.
"We're going to get some hot water bottles to get some heat to the hamstrings if I'm on the bench.
"And I've been given lots of good strengthening exercises to do, which will hopefully make me a lot stronger."
Ward has been a frustrated spectator for the past three months but has been encouraged by what he has seen.
"It can be painful watching from the stands but I'm really happy to see the lads doing well," he added.