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Jan, 11, 2008

Victory star Ward thinking of staying

Olyroos midfielder Nick Ward is considering staying in the A-League and scrapping a return to Europe after playing a key role in the Melbourne Victory's late season resurgence.

Ward, who spent a difficult 18 months battling it out in the English lower divisions before being thrown a career lifeline by the Victory last month, had initially signalled he wanted to use his stint at the Victory as a springboard to another European deal.

He is on a six-month contract with Melbourne to stay until the end of the Asian Champions League.

But the 22-year-old, who has made a marked difference to the Victory and been a key in them stringing together three successive A-League wins, admits he is re-thinking whether to give Europe another try.

"I haven't written that (staying at the Victory) off at all," Ward said.

"The biggest thing is for me to get back to full fitness and I'm playing regularly now.

"I'm enjoying my football again. I had a tough time overseas and I just want to get back to loving football."

Ward's signing has been a perfect fit for the Victory - giving them a box-to-box midfielder capable of getting beyond their strikers and taking the pressure off midfielder Carlos Hernandez.

Ward netted his first goal for Melbourne in their impressive 3-0 win over Wellington at Telstra Dome on Friday night and his workrate and vision was a key element in allowing Hernandez to star in the match.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick admitted he would love Ward to stay beyond the Champions League.

"If we sell the club to Nick, then he'll stay," Merrick said.

"I think he's enjoyed himself and the supporters and the quality of the football and he's scoring. If he scores goals every week he won't want to leave."

Former Perth Glory player Ward was the A-League young player of the year in the competition's first season, before his ill-fated move to Queen's Park Rangers.

And it would appear if he is going to remain in the A-League, his preferred club would be the Victory.

"It's definitely different playing with Melbourne. It is a lot more professional than when I was at Perth. We didn't have the facilities, the backing or the crowds and the players as well," Ward said.

"It's easy when you've got good players, like Carlos and Archie (Thompson)."

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