Danny Ward has lost his Leicester City place but Robert Page says he has just played his best two games for Wales.
Ward’s clean sheet in Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifying win over Latvia was Wales’ first in 10 games.
It was the Leicester’s goalkeeper’s first shutout since the Foxes’ EFL Cup win over MK Dons in December.
Ward made some crucial saves as Wales held on to beat the Latvians, having also played a significant role in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Croatia.
It has been a fine start to European Championship qualifying for a Wales side in transition following the retirements of key figures in Gareth Bale and Joe Allen, with the cause not helped by injuries to Wayne Hennessey, Ben Davies and Brennan Johnson.
Had Hennessey been fit, Ward may have spent the international break on the bench.
But with the veteran Nottingham Forest keeper unavailable, Ward was a certain Wales starter – and he seized his opportunity.
“I said to Wardy before he left, I think that’s probably been his best two games in a Welsh jersey,” Wales manager Page said.
“He was that calming influence we needed [against Latvia] when the ball was coming into the box.”
Ward’s Wales successes were timely given that he lost his place at Leicester just before the international break.
The 29-year-old has spent most of his career as a back-up option, whether at Liverpool or the King Power Stadium, where he was the long-time understudy to Kasper Schmeichel.
Schmeichel’s move to Nice last August presented Ward with the chance to claim a regular starting spot, and he had been Brendan Rodgers’ number one until Daniel Iversen was given a Premier League debut at Brentford on 18 March.
Ward says the mood in the Wales squad lifted his spirits after the disappointment of losing his place at Leicester.
“It hasn’t [been easy] but it was business as normal for me,” he said.
“The big thing about this [Wales] group, for the last nine or ten years I have been here, is we are all pals off the pitch.
“It’s like coming back to being with your mates. It’s been really nice to come back, especially after not doing ourselves justice and showing what we are capable of at the World Cup.”
Ward can expect to be back on the bench when Leicester go to Crystal Palace on Saturday, after which Rodgers’ side will have 10 Premier League games left in which to ensure they avoid relegation.
As it stands, they are a point above the bottom three – but only two points behind Palace, who are 12th.
“We have to give everything to keep the club in the league, it’s as simple as that,” Ward added.
“It will be tough, but we have to have a real united front with everyone involved and we will get there.”
Wales, like Leicester, have plenty of work to do if they are to achieve their next goal.
But four points from the first two Euro 2024 qualifiers have boosted the prospects of Page’s new-look Wales squad, who reconvene in June for Group D games at home to Armenia and in Turkey.
“There are encouraging signs,” Ward said.
“I thought we gave two very different performances. Latvia was more about dominating the ball. We maybe weren’t quite as sharp as we would like to be, but a win and a clean sheet is always nice.
“The game over in Croatia, we knew how good they are. To come away with a point from there was massive and it has increased belief, so we go back to our clubs and look forward to the summer now.
“It’s really whet the appetite for us all so we will go again in the summer.”