He’s one of the top marksmen in the Championship, he’s scoring goals at a faster rate than at any time in his career and he’d be a runaway Player of the Year winner if the voting took place now.
Yet Rotherham United’s Danny Ward has no idea what has transformed him from a gifted frontman who didn’t hit the net often enough into a deadly hot-shot feared by every opposing side in the division.
“I am not really too sure what has clicked,” confessed the forward who has struck eight times in only 16 league matches to lie fourth in the hitman rankings in the second tier behind Newcastle United’s Dwight Gayle, Brighton’s Glenn Murray and Bristol City’s Tammy Abraham.
Gayle and Murray, on 11 and nine goals respectively, are star men for teams occupying the the top two places in the Championship, while Abraham, also on nine, has been banging them in for a club occupying a play-off place.
What’s even more impressive about Ward’s tally is that it’s been achieved while playing for a side in bottom spot after the short, ill-fated reign of former manager Alan Stubbs.
Ward has suffered from a back condition in the past, but has started every league fixture for the Millers this season.
“I am playing every week and staying injury free and that is a boost for confidence,” the 24-year-old told The Star. “In recent games I have gone on to the pitch just knowing I am going to score. I think having that bit of confidence helps.”
Ward bagged three goals in 16 Championship games in the 2014/15 season after joining the Millers from Huddersfield Town in January 2015 and was on target four times in 34 league appearances last term.
This year has been a different story, and Stubbs’ successor, Kenny Jackett, who has seen Ward score twice in the three fixtures since he took the New York Stadium hot-seat, has no doubt about the importance of his main striker.
“He’s a talented player who has done very well,” said the boss. “With his pace, he is always going to be a threat. We have to make sure we utilise him properly. We look like we have a goal threat.”
The attacker’s contract runs out at the end of the season but it is thought there could be an option to extend it for a further 12 months.
Ward added: “As long as you are playing every week and staying injury free, you probably wouldn’t have to train because you are feeling really fit.
“Training with the new manager has been high-intensity stuff and you feel sharp come the games.
“It’s just about making sure I do everything right, even from the warm-ups at the start of training. Just make sure you do it, don’t miss anything out and give yourself the best chance.”
His teammates, meanwhile, know a player when they see one.
“Wardy,” said centre-half Richard Wood after watching his pal terrorise the Ipswich Town defence and score twice in a 2-2 draw at Portman Road 12 days ago. “He was a joke today.”