The Roland Harris Column

Tuesday 1 July, 2003

Ashley Ward and the wages of sin

Ashley Ward, loathe him or grudgingly respect him you just can't love a guy who gets paid 18,000 a week to score three goals a season. Word is that Ashley will be joining Derby County, Ipswich Town or Barnsley depending on who you believe and that City will be stumping up a percentage of his wage.

Personally I do not think the FA should allow this practice of one club paying for a player to play for another. It is too ripe for abuse and while our English stiff upper lips say it could never happen here you just know that in some corner of Malaysia the fix would be in and a team where Halifax are now would get having a squad paid for by bookies who would reap the rewards when they "unexpectedly" won everything they could.

Too open to abuse and frankly not really in the spirit of the game. One man, one club, one wage and so on to Ashley Ward

Ward has 12 months left to run on the last great football folly of his contract which means that in July 2004 he will be 936,000 richer less tax but out of work. Should he move to another club and keep that 18,000 a week City would probably pay a percentage of his wage to get him off the books. If Ashley signs for Derby and the two clubs split his wage City spend 468,000 letting a player play for someone else but save 468,000 which is a decent stack and probably worth doing because frankly with Dean Windass, Andy Gray, Danny Forrest, Kevin Sansay, Robert Wolleaston and Luke Cornwall all going for two striking berths I can see Ash spending time on the bench.

However Ashley is not going to sign for Derby, for example, on a one year deal. Ash will be 33 at the start of this season meaning he will be 34 at the kick off of the one after when he will be looking for a new deal. Who would want a 34 year old target man with a bad goal ratio who costs the Earth? Not many clubs. Ashley wants some job security and he will expect at least two years which will pocket him 1,872,000 over the period. City would still only pay for one year, 468,000, and leave Derby with the rest of the bill. If Ashley wants a deal that takes him up to a decent retirement age he will be looking for three years which cutting to the bottom line would give the Rams (or whoever) a commitment of 2,340,000 over three years. Not going to happen in this day and age. I know it, you know it and Ashley Ward knows it.

So does Ashley sit tight and expect a club when he leaves City in 12 months time when he will be 34 at the season start and might not even have had a good stint in the City starting eleven? If he does it's hard to see how City could offer him a new deal regardless of how he did in the year, the drop from 1m a year to 100,000 would be too much for the tan to take.

For my money, and it is my money that ends up in the pocket of Ashley Ward, Ash's only option if he wants a contract past July 2004 is to find another club now that will extend him a deal until July 2005 or 2006 and he will only get that if he drops his wages. If Ashley can find a two year deal that will pay him the same as he gets at City but spread over the longer period, say about 10,000 then he will have done very well and perhaps City might help out in the first year to the tune of half of that amount costing us 260,000, a saving of 676,000, but if I was Gordon Gibb I would not be the one to make the offer.

If Ashley gets a deal for three years then he only needs to find a club willing to pay him around 6,000 a week- or 2,000 a goal/season- and he will make the same money as he does at City but have the joy not being on the scrap heap when he is 34 next summer. In this situation I do not see any reason why the Bantams should help pay him at all. In my darker moments I have to admit that Ashley is not that bad a player. Sure he has no idea where the goal is and he is not fit to lace Lee Mills's boots (or his drinks) but he holds the ball well and brings other players into the game. A snip at 6,000 a week if a manager has made his mind up at signing a forward, even one of the non-scoring variety.

In a nutshell Ashley Ward is going to look very old and very expensive next summer unless he gets a move that nets him a longer contract. Previously when City have been desperately trying to shift him it was beneficial to the Bantams and Ashley was sitting pretty. Now it is Ashley who will be struggling next season and City who have factored his wage into account. It's in Ashley's best interests to get a move with a longer deal now.

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