Darren Ward spent three years at Nottingham Forest as a player and now he’s helped the England Women reach a World Cup Final. The Lionesses defeated hosts Australia 3-1 to set up a clash with Spain on Sunday.
It was a breathtaking contest that produced a truly superb advert for the female game. Ward was spotted in a warm embrace with head coach Sarina Wiegman after Alessia Russo scored the third goal.
This was the moment when England truly believed they could win the World Cup. They never froze despite being on the grandest stage and even when Sam Kerr equalised in the second-half, there was only ever one winner of this clash.
England held a half-time lead during the game in Sydney. Ella Toone, deputising for the suspended Lauren James, scored a remarkable goal that sailed into the roof of the net.
Kerr did restore parity with a thunderbolt that sailed beyond Mary Earps in the England goal. However, the lead didn’t last long when a pinpoint pass from Millie Bright saw Lauren Hemp on hand to put the Lionesses into the lead again.
MORE FOREST STORIES
Russo put the cap on a fine victory with a third goal four minutes from time; with Ward enjoying a celebratory hud with Wiegman on the touchline.
Forest hero Ward helps Lionesses reach World Cup Final
So where does the man who spent three years at Forest from 2001 fit into all of this? Ward also played for Notts County and Mansfield during a playing career that saw him finish his playing days with Sunderland.
After retiring, he went into coaching. His first role was with Peterborough United but after that, he headed into the women’s game on a more frequent basis.
Ward was appointed into the role with the Lionesses shortly after Phil Neville was dismissed and replaced by Wiegman.
He has been instrumental in making England number one Earps the goalkeeper she is today and he was on the coaching staff as the Lionesses won the European Championships last year.
Ward was brilliant during his three years at Forest. He was an instrumental part of Paul Hart’s team that famously reached the play-offs.
If he can be part of the coaching staff that helps an England team win the World Cup, however, it would definitely be the pinnacle of his career.