DEFENDER Darren Ward wants the Swindon Town squad to raise their standards as they battle to live up to increased expectations in their challenge for promotion.
Town are unbeaten in their last 10 games which has seen them rise to third in the League One table, and three points in tomorrow’s home clash with rock-bottom Hartlepool could see the Robins go top of the pile for the first time this season.
The eyes of the football world are now on the County Ground due to the speculation regarding the future of manager Paolo Di Canio, the potential takeover of the club, and their lofty league position, but Ward wants to ensure the players remain focused on the job in hand.
“Now we have found ourselves up the league a lot of teams are looking at us and thinking we are doing quite well, so there will be more focus on us,” he said.
“It is one of those where the players need to raise their game, raise their standards and keep it going until the end of the season.
“I have not read a thing, and I don’t really read newspapers, but if I feel the need to I will.
“I have my own views about many things, but until the manager tells us anything or the owners, I have to get on with my job and so do all the players.
“We have to focus, it’s our job to focus, and not get carried away by the opinions of people who think you are a top team, and start believing other people’s thoughts than concentrating on your own game.”
Swindon return to the familiar surroundings of the County Ground tomorrow after away games on difficult pitches at Leyton Orient, Crawley and Colchester, and Ward wants to treat the home crowd to another tight defensive display.
“It has been a test, not just mentality but physically on our legs because we have had some very difficult pitches to play on,” he said.
“It has been the same for both sides on the day, but three on the spin for us is quite hard.
“We need to look forward to Saturday now, and we just have to keep going.
“It gives you a base if you don’t concede goals in games, and a lot of hard work has gone into it, we don’t just turn up.
“We are out there training very hard and we are put under a lot of pressure to keep doing that, which is our job which we have to do.
“We have to keep going and concentrate, and look for a good result.”
The events of the last two weeks are nothing new for Ward, and the veteran has been doing his best to help the younger members of the squad keep their minds on the job.
“There has been a few times when takeovers have happened, but it is an experience you can’t effect,” he said.
“We as players don’t make decisions, and we have to realise that quickly to make it become easier.
“It’s important (to help younger players) and we have been trying to control a number of things to focus on the pitch and concentrate on the matchday, and not get drawn into anything.
“We can’t effect anything unless the players take over the club, and I can’t see that happening.”