Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward has been advised to remain patient and continue fighting for his chance as Jurgen Klopp‘s first-team goalkeeper.
Ward made only his second appearance of the season at club level when the Reds’ U23s fell to a 1-0 defeat to Sparta Prague on Tuesday night.
The Wales international made a vital penalty save to deny Srdan Plavsic with 10 minutes left to play at Prenton Park, but the forward then struck in the dying stages to seal an away victory.
Having only featured for the first team in September’s 2-0 loss to Leicester City in the League Cup, Ward would be forgiven for growing frustrated.
But speaking after his side’s defeat, U23s manager Neil Critchley stressed that Ward must take a patient approach to his development.
“I don’t think his development as a goalkeeper is unusual for a young goalkeeper,” he told ESPN FC.
“He’s still young—you’ve got to remember that. He’s got competition at Melwood, but he’d expect to have that.
“Danny believes in himself and he’s a fighter, so I’m sure he’ll keep performing and training like he is to give the manager something to think about.
“He’s brilliant. He’s a big character, Danny—a really good character. I think he’s matured so much since I’ve known him.”
The sight of Ward lining up between the sticks in Tranmere led to calls from supporters for a promotion to the role of first-choice goalkeeper at senior level.
Simon Mignolet currently serves as Jurgen Klopp‘s stopper in the Premier League, while Loris Karius—who is exactly the same age as Ward—has been a regular in the Champions League.
Karius’ role does jar with Critchley’s dismissal of Ward’s current status as “unusual for a young goalkeeper,” as do his impressive displays on loan at Aberdeen and Huddersfield Town.
But, admirably, Ward has kept his head down so far this season, and Critchley explained how the 24-year-old was more than willing to step down to the U23s.
“He wanted to play tonight, which is great for him. I spoke to Danny before the game and he was eager to play and get games,” he added.
“Hopefully now he feels the benefit of that. We’re here to facilitate for the first-team players and we’re delighted Danny has come down and helped us. Hopefully we’ve helped him.”
Liverpool’s next cup outing comes in the FA Cup in January, which could well be Ward’s next opportunity on the senior stage.
Klopp’s preference of both Mignolet and Karius remains questionable, as whenever Ward is called upon he performs—be that on loan, for the U23s, for Wales or for Liverpool.