By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA
Joel Ward revealed Crystal Palace’s players were surprised by the sacking of Patrick Vieira as the club fights for Premier League survival.
Vieira left his role on Friday morning after overseeing a winless run of 11 league games, stretching back to New Year’s Eve.
Palace failed to score in his last four matches in charge and he was axed by chairman Steve Parish ahead of Sunday’s 4-1 loss at leaders Arsenal.
Asked if the squad were surprised by the news of Vieira’s exit, Ward replied: “Yes.
“I think anything like that comes as a bit of a surprise. The tough thing in football is that it’s a results business and we had a tough run of games and the hierarchy have made the decision about the direction they want to go.
“We have to respect that and make sure as a club right from the top, fans to players, we all get together and take care of business.
“Ultimately we’re the only ones that can do that on the pitch so we have to stand up and be accountable for that.”
Vieira took charge at Selhurst Park in July 2021 and guided Palace to a 12th-place finish last season before form dropped off badly following the World Cup.
“It’s a side of the game that no-one really likes to see,” defender Ward added on Vieira’s dismissal.
“It’s not a nice thing to happen in any industry. But we have to rebound from that. I’m sure he will go on to do great things in his next chapter.
“The club and players have the utmost respect for him. The way he applied himself and how he went about his day to day business, it’s disappointing.
“But we now have to focus on retaining our Premier League status and that’s the bottom line. We have to stick together and make sure we go out there and do the business.”
Under-21 boss Paddy McCarthy took charge of the side at the Emirates Stadium as the defeat, with Jeffrey Schlupp’s consolation strike at least ending a run of nearly seven hours without a goal, left Palace three points clear of the relegation zone.
Ward, though, insists he will not be caught up in worrying who the new manager will be, refusing to be drawn on a potential return for previous boss Roy Hodgson.
“I can’t comment on that,” he said of reports linking the 75-year-old with a shock return.
“I’m not sure what the situation is, but whoever it is they choose, I know the players will get behind and give 100 per cent.
“We’re focussed on the pitch. Whatever happens between now and then will be what it will be. We just have to make sure that we’re in the right place.
“A few lads are going away on international duty so those of us staying behind have to work just as hard to make sure we’re bright and ready to go on April 1.
“As a group we need to make sure we stick together and keep pushing forward. We have to go out with our heads held high and leave everything out on that pitch.”