Wales boss Rob Page has sympathy for Danny Ward’s situation at Leicester

Wales boss Rob Page has defended Danny Ward and blamed “politics” for the out-of-favour Leicester goalkeeper not moving in the January transfer window.

Ward, Wales’ number one, has not played for Leicester in over 12 months and finds himself third-choice goalkeeper at the Championship promotion-chasers.

Page urged several Wales players to change clubs in January in order to play more ahead of the Euro 2024 play-offs, which starts with a semi-final against Finland in Cardiff on Thursday.

Wales v Croatia – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group D – Cardiff City Stadium
Danny Ward (left) celebrates Wales’ Euro 2024 qualifying victory over Croatia in October with teammate Ben Davies but has not played for his club Leicester this season (Nick Potts/PA)

Almost to a man Page’s call was heeded but Ward has remained frozen out at Leicester, drawing plenty of criticism from Wales fans on social media who feel he should have moved with ambitions of a third successive European Championship appearance.

“I’ve spoken to Danny and it wasn’t a case of him not listening to my advice,” said Page.

“When you put your player head on, you get it, I understand it. I have sympathy for Danny.

“When I put my manager head on, no, but with my player head on, of course I understand.

“When politics are involved and you’ve got a length of time left on your contract, it is not as easy as just getting out and playing games of football.

Wales v Turkey – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying – Group D – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales manager Rob Page has defended goalkeeper Danny Ward over his failure to leave Leicester in January to play first-team football (Joe Giddens/PA)

“There are many aspects to that. It’s hard sometimes and not easy to just get out when there are wages, fees and all-sorts involved, it is out of your control.”

Ward has rarely made the Leicester bench under Enzo Maresca this season with first-choice Mads Hermansen and Jakub Stolarczyk ahead of the 30-year-old.

The 38-times capped Ward has had to settle for trying to gain match sharpness by playing for Leicester’s under-23s.

“He has played in a couple of under-23 games,” said Page. “He said he was going to do that and he has done, I think he’s played three or four.

“It’s not the level, we know that, but at least he’s made some effort to go and play games.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Celtic – UEFA Europa League – Group G – BayArena
Wales’ goalkeeping issues have been put into sharp focus by the achievements of Finland’s Bayer Leverkusen number one Lukas Hradecky (PA Wire via DPA)

“We’ve managed it in the past before and I’m just going to focus on the positives.

“The positives are that the majority of our squad are out playing football and playing well.”

Wales’ goalkeeping issue is reflected by not one of their four senior goalkeepers – Ward, Wayne Hennessey, Adam Davies and Tom King – having played one minute of league football all season.

By contrast, Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky has had a fantastic campaign and not lost a single game while wearing the armband for Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

Page said: “We’ve done a load of analysis on him over the last three or four weeks.

“He’s probably one of the stand-out high-profile players for them.”