Joel Ward goes into the semi-final against Watford believing it is his faith that has helped see him through the tough times in his career and a return to the big stage of Wembley.
“I’m blessed to play football and I think God would want me to play,” said the 26 year-old as he prepared for a return to the famous stadium.
“We are on a national stage and we have a platform that we can use to influence many around us. I can use that to show my faith and stand up for what I believe.
“Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I get to do something I love doing," revealed Ward as he looked ahead to Sunday's semi-final. "It’s been a journey to get to where I am now, a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
“It’s not hard to be a Christian on the pitch. Everyone is human, so obviously different things happen. But you try and be an example and live your life right, let your faith and what you believe shine through you.”
Ward was at both FA Cup Finals when he was with Portsmouth in 2008 and 2010 but didn't play in the games although remembers that time of his career well.
“It was great being involved with Pompey that year, but in the back of everyone’s mind was the fact it was devastating to be relegated and the way the club was going, it was a bad time at the club, with them going into administration. The FA Cup provided a silver lining."
Ward did appear at the stadium in Palace's 2013 play-off final and remembers how the squad kept together as a group through a poor run of form leading into the play off matches.
“We had a bad run of form but the quality and camaraderie of the group ensured we stuck together through those times, we knew that we would turn it round.
“This season has been up and down for us. We had the best start we’d ever had in the league, then we had a horrible run, but hopefully we can kick on now and finish off strongly."
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