The Roland Harris Column

Wednesday 6 August, 2003

Not good enough: The final verdict on Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward has left Bradford City and about time too. It seems that Ward has gone to chase balls and bucks elsewhere and that is fine by me.

So lets look back at the Bradford City career of Ashley Ward. Signed for a stupid then let alone now 1.5m to replace the excellent Lee Mills, more of later, Ward was given half of what Benito Carbone picked up in a week. If only he did half the work, made half the impact.

It took Ashley Ward about thirty games to get his first scrambled effort in the Premiership for City and for the remainder of that season Ash looked like he might be the man needed to fire Jim Jefferies side back into the top flight. Ashley's sun set along with Jefferies but while the Scot went home there was no shifting Ash. He sat on the famous 18,000 a week contract for all he was worth.

That is a debate that I will put to rest right now by the way. "Do I expect Ashley Ward to ask for his contract reducing?", "We were stupid enough to give him it." True maybe but as I have said before contracts are flexible in most industries and some people who follow City needs to realise that Ashley Ward would have seen this club hit the wall and never get up rather than reduce his terms. I have my opinions on a guy who would to that to community and I'm sure you can guess what they are.

So in comes Nicky Law and he makes pro Ashley Ward noises and he is right to because we need someone in Ashley Ward's role in the team. We need a target man, someone who can get hold of the ball when it's cleared by the back line and bring other man into the game. We need someone who can lead the line but the problem with Ashley Ward is that he does not do that well enough.

Lee Mills did. He led the line and made space for the likes of Robbie Blake, Peter Beagrie and Jamie Lawrence to exploit. Mills was what people think Ashley Ward is, a goal scoring target man, but if Ward's target man abilities are questionable then that is nothing next to his goal record.

Barn door, cows arse, banjo, brothel. You have heard them all and they all work pretty well. Ashley's goal tally of three last year is humiliating. Danny Forrest equalled it in far fewer minutes on the field. Mills of course got 25 in a season playing a similar role as Ward does.

There is the final verdict on Ward. He does not score enough and he does not set up enough as looking at last season's top scorers, which shows his replacement, and a guy who fired a canon from the midfielder at the top suggests. His target man play is not very good and one could hardly call him a leader of men. David Wetherall takes the role of highly paid senior pro on, Ward does not.

So what does Ward do? Answer, he costs a lot of money.

It's that simple.

Ashley Ward is the equivalent of a bottle of posh French perfume. The product is no worth much but it's so expensive it has to be good right?

Wrong.

If Ashley Ward picked up 1,800 a week and not 18,000 he might represent reasonable value but no one at all would have any problems saying he was a poor player. He would be a Robert Molenaar, a liability we would be glad to get rid off if only to free up a peg in the dressing room.

So ultimately the problem with Ashley Ward is that he is tied to the figure of 18,000 a week so much that no one can keep a level view of him. I can't stand him but I didn't really mind Andy Tod but because Tod cost less, it seemed less of a problem. Likewise people who see good things about Ashley Ward ignore talent from a host of quality players who do not get much bank because if they were better then they would cost more.

Now it's all over. We never again have to wince at Ashley Ward half hearted attempts to lead the line nor do we have to listen to so called experts who mistake the value of a target man in a team for the value of Ashley Ward in our team and even if we did a deal where we paid 99.9% of the million we would have paid Ward this season then we are a grand up from where we started.

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