On a roster of hardworking, very talented players for RGVFC, only one played every minute of every match. That player was Charlie Ward. The English midfielder logged over 2700 minutes this season, and worked his tail off each one. He was the connector from the back line to the attack, distributing the ball, then always making himself available to receive the ball back if need be. After a Twitter poll, Ward was selected by the fans as the player they wanted me to interview first after the season ending loss, so ladies and gentleman, here’s Charlie Ward.
Dynamo Theory: Overall, how would you describe your first year playing soccer in the United States?
Charlie Ward: My first season has been great. I’ve met some great people who will be my friends for a long time. I hope to see all of them push forward with there careers, and playing MLS soccer. I have met 2 coaches in Wilmer and Dello and I don’t have one bad word to say about them. (Other than Wilmer's refereeing skills *laughs*) But in all honestly, my first year has been great and I have been honored and so grateful for all the great things that have happened and the people I have met.
DT: What was the main difference, on the pitch, between the US and your native UK?
Ward: To be honest, the only major difference is the crazy heat. In the middle of July, I thought I was having a heart attack when I was playing it was that hot and humid, especially knowing that I hadn't scored all season and my mom was watching back in the UK giving me a telling off on the phone, *Laughs* I'm kidding!
But, no the standard of play has been good. I think it isn't as just kick it and run in this league as it is back home in the lower leagues, so for me and my style it has been a great platform to showcase what I can do.
DT: How important was it for you to play every second of the season, even when you were a bit sore or tired?
Ward: To be honest now, for me it has been great. I have played every second, only been injured once all year for a day or so, so I give all Glory to God. I'm frustrated at Him with what happened against OKC with us losing, but that's life and soccer, you take the ups with the downs. It is a great statistic, but if you would of told me: play 15 games and get the team to the final and you win, than I would of rather had that to be honest. My 31 games mean nothing now as we are out, and everyone is looking at what is next. Also have to give a massive thanks to the staff from Wilmer to Dello to Steve to Rafa, everyone has played there part in everything I have done, on and off the pitch.
DT: Personally, what have you improved on most this season?
Ward: If I have improved anything this year, I really think I have grown up and matured as a person. I have always lived at home with my parents in the UK, so to move to a new country, with not knowing anyone out her, I really think it has opened my eyes. I'm living McAllen, Texas, a better person and hopefully a better player. Now I'm looking forward to being looked after like a king when I'm home by my mom. I'm just kidding if you’re reading mom *Laughs*. But it has been a long, and really enjoyable 8 months. I haven't seen my mom, dad and my brothers in forever, and all the team here has looked after me like we are a family and that's really opened my eyes to say you can make good mates for life in this crazy competitive sport we play.
DT: What can you say about the role Wilmer and his staff played in your development?
Ward: Now I don't want to write a story here, but whatever I say, it won't be enough. It isn’t enough for how thankful I am to Wilmer and Dello. I have never had 2 coaches who have done what they have for me. I didn't deserve to play against Tulsa the first match, but they gave me opportunity after opportunity. They have most definitely improved me as a player, and as a person. From training, when I have to listen to Wilmer ask why my hair looks so bad, to him saying how big my head is, he really is a great person who deserves a great things. Then, Dello is now a dad and that's showing in training now when we play, he's a yard off. I hope he doesn't read this as I might be getting a text. I'll give a shout to Steve, who has kept me in great condition and kept me ticking all season. He’s also a great person and one of the best at his job.
I just want to thank everyone, but Wilmer and Dello have been nothing but good to me, and the only way I could’ve repaid them was by winning the Cup and we didn't. So I will always feel I let them down, and I am sorry to them and to the Valley people that we didn't pull through for you.
DT: A lot of fans, writers, and soccer people project you will be a guy the Houston Dynamo need to take a hard look at this offseason, do you feel you're ready for the next level?
Ward: Honestly, who knows what will happen. I take each day as it comes, I give my all every day we train, and put my body through everything. All I think about is being the best I can be, and I still have so much to do, which is exciting, but frustrating because I’m 21, and want it all now. But I have to be patient, nothing worth having comes easy as Wilmer says, and that's true. That's why I am happy today, as I know I will get to where I want to be, I just have to keep believing in myself, and listening to all my family that push me constantly to make me the best I can be, and that's all that matters. If something happens with the Dynamo, it would be fantastic. That’s something that I’ve wanted since the day I got here, but if it doesn't, then I know I have given everything I can. We will see, a lot of crazy things happen in this sport, look at what happened this weekend, so i just need to stay positive, and we will see what is next in the coming weeks and months.
DT: What will your plans be for the offseason?
Ward: Well my first plan is to get home to my parents, and give them the biggest hug I probably ever had. My mom, dad, brothers, and my 2 dogs, I can not wait to see them all. I'm so excited, it has been so long, and I just hope my dog remembers me, that's probably one of the biggest worries I have at this moment! *Laughs*
But, I think I will go down to see my agents, talk about the season moving forward, what is next, and then we take it from there. I will probably rest for a couple weeks, but if opportunities arise who knows what will happen, that's why I take each day as it comes, and put all my faith and trust in the Most High.
DT: What would you like to say to all the Toros’ supporters, in South Texas and across the country?
Ward: Well let me say, thank you to the fans of RGVFC, I have had a wonderful experience down here. It’s something I will never forget, so thank you. You treated me like one of your own, even though I was 39 shades paler than anyone here. I stuck out like a sore thumb, but you will always have a place in my heart. This is a great club, great people, you have some questionable weather, but I am not moaning as I am going home to rain and cold, so thank you for everything. I will never forget you chanting my name, always brings a happy smile to my face, who knows what will happen next, but all I know is thank you. I am honored to have played for your club, and I am sorry we could not win, deeply saddened, but thanks for being there every week, and next year you will have a stadium to sing in, so start the count down!
DT: When you and I talked before the season, you had Golden Corral as your favorite restaurant in the States. Has that changed?
Ward: Well this one is so easy, answering it is the shortest paragraph I will write today. It's Chick-fil-A. I don't want to talk about it too much, as it brings tears to my eyes. I'm only allowed it once a week, as I have a strict diet in the week. But wow, all thanks George Malki, he truly opened my eyes for the better.
DT: Last one, looking back, what will be your favorite memory with the guys in the 2016 season with the Toros?
Ward: Honestly I don't even feel sad, all I feel is true happiness and smiles with all the memories I have shared with the lads and coaching staff. The memories will stick with me forever. I’m just always so hard on myself, and it will kill me for the next months, or years that we didn't win this league cup.
This team was hands down the best team in the league. When we played our way, and we were on it, no one was better. And I know I'm sitting here and we are out the playoffs, but I truly believe the way we played, the style that was implemented by the coaches, and then put onto the pitch, was very high. And I knew, the first game against Tulsa, that I was playing on a good team under great coaches, so I knew that it was going to be a hell of a ride. I am thankful to God for what he has done for me with coming here, I will never forget it,
And thanks to you Carson, and everyone reading this has probably helped me in some way, so thank you, I will never forget this experience and the people, it will stick with me for the rest of my playing days.