SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Owls withdraw interest in Joel Ward

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SHEFFIELD Wednesday have pulled out of the race to sign talented Portsmouth right-back Joel Ward, The Star can reveal.

Having gained promotion to the Championship, the Owls had expressed an interest in securing the 22-year-old’s services.

But Wednesday manager Dave Jones, who has yet to taste defeat since suceeding Gary Megson at the helm, has decided against making a formal offer for Ward, who can operate anywhere across the back four or in midfield.

It is believed the Owls were reluctant to pay the £450,000 transfer fee cash-strapped Pormpey are demanding for Ward.

Sources on the south coast say four to five clubs are in advanced talks with Ward’s representatives, having had bids accepted by Portsmouth.

Blackpool, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Ipswich Town are understood to be in the hunt to sign Ward and the youngster is expected to leave Fratton Park before the end of the week. Leeds, managed by former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock, appear to be in pole position to land the highly-rated Ward.

Portsmouth’s administrator Trevor Birch, the ex-Blades chief executive, said: “It [a deal for Ward] has taken time. We have all been waiting on this one, hopefully it can go through soon.”

Westfield Health have agreed to extend their shirt sponsorship deals with the two Sheffield clubs.