Elliott On Progress

Young defender Elliott Ward aims to seize the chance of playing in the reserves and continue his rapid progress through the ranks.

The departure of fellow centre half Izzie Iriekpen on loan to Leyton Orient has cleared the way for him to forge a partnership with Anton Ferdinand in the reserves.

It worked well enough against Nottingham Forest midweek, when, under the usual vocal tutelage of Raimond van der Gouw, the side kept another clean sheet.

Fellow young defender Glen Johnson has also gone on loan to Millwall, of course, and Elliott says: "It is a good opportunity for them to get experience of games in the league and I am pleased for them.

"That's what happens in football all the time, people move out and new people move in to take over."

Of his own progress, the level-headed 17-year-old says: "I have had four or five reserve games and it is good for me - more of a challenge to bring myself on as a player.

"It is a case whereby you are up against Premiership players and that can only help you improve.

"I just like to take that challenge; I set higher targets all the time and hopefully I will reach them.

"At the end of last season I set the target to be a regular in the reserves this year and I have played a few games already.

"I want to progress whenever the gaffer feels I can, and when he is saying good things about you it always helps you with your confidence - and makes you want to play better.

"But you are only as good as your last game.

"It is all about taking the steps up. There is a leap from the 17s to the 19s, a leap from that to the reserves - and, of course, the biggest leap of all into the first team.

"At the moment I feel I have bridged the gaps but there is still a long way to go."

Elliott says there is plenty of talent developing behind him and adds: "Over the years we have brought quite a few through because we have good coaches and a good youth system.

"And there are a lot more to come, players such as Mark Noble, Danny Bunce, Chris Cohen, and Tom Laws."

And he insists that the first team will soon mark an upturn in fortunes.

"It has been a bit of a slow start but I know the boys will come through and the gaffer will get it right. It is just a matter of time to get it together," he says.