“It was a boyhood dream to be able to walk out onto that pitch,” he remembers as he prepares to relive the moment in the documentary series When Eagles Dare – which is now available to watch worldwide.
“I’ve been there as a fan so many times. To actually go out there and play, it’s not something that everybody gets to do. To win the game and be promoted – in the most incredible way to get promoted – was amazing.
“I think we did something which was very smart. We went the day before and had a look around, saw where our families were going to be sat. We just got a feel for the stadium, the atmosphere and the occasion.
“We just spent some time there walking around the pitch. That settled any kind of… not nerves because nerves are quite natural in that sort of game, but it settled our minds in the sense that we weren’t thinking about anything else other than winning that match.
“We knew exactly where everything was, how everyone was going to be, how things were going to play out on the day. It was a hairs on the back of the neck moment when we walked out to that atmosphere.”
The preparation worked, and Ward’s focus deep into the match was crucial in forever enamouring himself with the Palace faithful – his goal-line clearance kept Watford at bay.
“I thank God for that,” he says, speaking with the Press Association and the South London Press. “I was in the right place at the right time – but it wasn’t just that. There were countless moments throughout that season and a lot of people stepped up to the plate.
“Even in that game there were moments when people had to step up. You only have to look at Jules’ [Speroni’s] save, the performance of Wilf [Zaha] and even the likes of Stuart O’Keefe coming on early doors.
“There are so many moments in that game – it was written in the stars. I thank God I was a part of it. It was such a blessing and I feel very fortunate. Even talking about it now puts the hairs up on the back of my neck because it was such an emotional thing to go through.”
It was the culmination of an extraordinary season, during which the squad had to tackle adversity in the change in manager and the arrival of Ian Holloway.
“It changes things,” Ward admits. “We were on a really good run under Dougie [Freedman] at the time. It got us into an amazing position to push on through the end of the season. So it always changes things.
“It changes the way you adjust to the new style of management and things like that, but I think what was key was that we had a core group of really good, genuine lads. Professionals who, regardless of what happened, were going to take the club in the right direction.”
Battling to the play-offs, Palace took on rivals Brighton for a Wembley place; two tense affairs were the perfect example of the spirit of Holloway’s side.
“The home game was a bit edgy, a bit cagey,” Ward says. “We lost our top goalscorer and talisman Glenn Murray in that game, which was devastating.
“The away fixture will live on in the minds and memories of the players, but also the fans and the club for many, many years to come because it was just such an incredible atmosphere down at Brighton.
“The way in which we played, we executed the game and with the rivalry as well, it was something special to come away with the win and to qualify for the final. The stars were written – everything was lined up for us.”
That season saw Ward taken in by the Selhurst faithful as one of their own, a relationship he has enjoyed ever since.
“I feel very fortunate to receive the support I have from the club and from the supporters,” he says. “The fanbase have been second-to-none, and always shown what they are all about and that it’s a family club.
“It’s genuine people with a love for the game and a love for the team they have followed all their lives with their families. I am fortunate the clubs I have played at, they’ve had incredible fans.
“I think they are the ones who get you through those difficult times when you have your backs against the wall. They carry you through.”
So how does Ward reflect on that rollercoaster season – and is he excited to relive it in When Eagles Dare?
“It’s been a journey, a journey that I’ve loved and a great one to be a part of,” he says. “I wasn’t here when the club was fighting for its life, but I came here the season we got promoted and it has been an incredible time.
“We have had some incredible highs and we’ve been so fortunate with the people working at the club since I have been here. I feel it is quite overwhelming the support you get from fans, from the club and everyone associated throughout that time.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it and reliving some of the moments that are very fond in my memory. I think everyone is eager to see it – it will bring back memories of that season.”