Ashley Stuart Ward
Feature by Blades-mad
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2010
Blades-Mad review the career of former Manchester City, Derby County and Blackburn Rovers striker Ashley Ward ahead of the Blades fixture with Barnsley this Easter weekend.
DoB: 24 November 1970 PoB: Manchester Position: Striker
Career: Manchester City (1989-91, 0 (3) + 0), Wrexham (loan) (1990-91, 5 (0) + 2), Leicester City (1991-92, 4 (11) + 0), Blackpool (loan) (1992-93, 2 (0) + 1), Crewe Alexandra (1992-94, 71 (5) + 34), Norwich City (1994-96, 60 (0) + 21), Derby County (1996-97, 35 (8) + 10), Barnsley (1997-98, 60 (1) + 25), Blackburn Rovers (1998-00, 58 (3) + 13), Bradford City (2000-03, 83 (10) + 20), Sheffield United (2003-05, 29 (8) + 5) Total: (1989-05 407 (49) + 131)
Ward started his career in Lancashire with Manchester City in 1989 though only made three substitute appearances, he left for Leicester City in August 1991 in a deal worth £80,000. In between then he took a loan move to Wales where he scored twice in five games for Wrexham.
Even his Filbert Street stint brought too few appearances; not even joining Blackpool on loan could get his career to a flying start. Ashley was sold to Crewe Alexandra for £80,000 in December 1992 having played 15 times for the Foxes.
It was at Gresty Road where he finally got himself a first team place, with Dario Gradi as manager Ward was allowed to play 58 games which notched him 25 goals in the Football League Division Three. At the end of the 1993/94 season Crewe Alexandra won promotion but in December that year he would join Norwich City.
The Canaries took Ward for £350,000 when in FA Premier League it was there he could be considered to be a legend; he scored twice in first-half on his debut against Chelsea and netted the following week against Crystal Palace.
The Carrow Road club battled hard to stop themselves from relegation but none of Ward's eight goals could prevent it. Ward was to net a further 13 league and cup goals before transferring to Derby County in March 1996 in a deal worth £1,000,000.
His spell at the Baseball Ground was marred by injury problems, during that 1995/96 season the Rams were promoted to the Premiership, he scored his first Premiership goal in a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool and was involved when Middlesbrough battered them 6-1 at the Riverside Stadium.
He scored on the final day of the Premier League season against Arsenal, though they lost 3-1. In 1997/98 he played in both away games against Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur which
both was lost 1-0.
He signed for fellow Premier League strugglers Barnsley on 3 September 1997 for an initial fee of £1,300,000, with an extra £250,000 if the Tykes would avoid relegation in their first Premiership season as well as 20% of transfer if later sold.
Ashley Ward made his Oakwell debut in 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa, but scored in his second when Barnsley won 2-1 at Chesterfield in Coca-Cola Cup. He played when Chelsea won 5-0 and at Old Trafford when Manchester United won 7-0, both in league.
Whilst at the Oakwell club transfer rumours went out of control, Scottish Premier League giants Celtic were supposed to be offering £3,500,000 for his services, also it was believed that on 18 November manger John Hendrie reject same money Celtic would pay for Leicester to sign him.
Other clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday would sell Paolo Di Canio to take Ward to Hillsborough; George Graham at Leeds United would also be buying him. In the end neither club bought Ward, whilst Barnsley was relegated at the end of the season, Leicester City being the club to end the Tykes misery.
On 21 November 1998 Ward played in a fixture which will no doubt want to forget, the Tykes beat Sunderland 3-2 at the Stadium of light - a fantastic win against quality opponents who eventually won the league at a canter that season. But this fixture will be remembered for five minutes of madness where he scored and missed a penalty before being sent-off after 'allegedly' stamping on Darren Williams.
A month later he would be sold to Blackburn Rovers for £4,500,000 on Christmas Day 1998. His last game and goal in a reds shirt was to see Huddersfield Town lose 7-1 at Oakwell.
He was officially back in the Premiership with just half a seasons absence, Blackburn were to beat Leeds United 1-0 on his debut at Ewood Park and his first goal came as Rovers drew 1-1 with Chelsea, however like his days with Derby County and Barnsley it was to end with sadness Rovers were relegated.
It wasn't long though until he was back in the Premier League though, he transferred to Bradford City in August 2000 for £1,500,000, previous to that he came to Bramall Lane and scored as United won 2-1.
Just four months on from his Valley Parade move saw him linked with a £1,500,000 transfer to Everton, while Newcastle United would link Ward upfront with Alan Shearer and send Stephan Glass in exchange.
In May 2002 Bradford City went into administration and 16 players had their contracts terminated, Stuart McCall moved to Sheffield United but Ward later re-signed for the Bantams, but left West Yorkshire when his contract ran out.
Derby County were keen to bring him back to Pride Park and when he left on 5 May 2003 he opted to stay in Yorkshire were he joined Sheffield United on a free transfer. He came off the substitute's bench to make his debut in the 0-0 draw against Gillingham and scored his first goal 8 games later with a 2-1 win at Wimbledon (now MK Dons).
He will be best remembered for his antics in the 2004/05 campaign where he scored twice against Leeds United at the Lane early on that season. It was however clear that he was past his best and time had caught up with him. When his contract ran out in July 2005 he hung up his boots and went into business.