Mitch Ward was firmly established as a first-choice senior player for First
Division Sheffield United, and perhaps one of their most consistent players
in the previous two seasons when he was brought to Goodison by Howard
A versatile player who has progressed through the ranks with Sheffield United,
the arrival of Howard Kendall at Bramhall Lane was a turning point for the
local boy who perhaps wondered if his future lay elsewhere.
Under Dave Bassett, Ward looked out-of-sorts and was made available for
transfer. However, he soon blossomed under Kendall's leadership,
establishing himself as a key member of the side. He added dependability
to his knack of doing a good job almost anywhere on the field. Ward has played
at right-back, on the right-wing, in central midfield and even at
Mitch Ward now has around 180 League starts to his credit and at the start
of 1997-98 season he had a 100% success rate from the penalty spot
a testimony to his nerve and accurate kicking.
Ward was one of the best crossers of the ball at the Blades, even though
he often swapped an orthodox wingers' role for that of a deeper-lying midfielder,
and has occupied those roles on both sides of the park in recent seasons.
He joined Everton at a dismal time when they were at the bottom of the
Premiership and looking for something to inspire a revival. Ward almost
produced that in his debut at
Chelsea, with a superb cross
that Ferguson headed onto a post. Ward them blotted his copy-book by
upending di Matteo to give away the first of two late penalties that stuck
the Toffees firmly to the foot of the table.
Since that inauspicious start, Mitch has laboured hard to make an impression
in a lack-lustre midfield. But he only had a run of four games before
picking up a hamstring injury. An abortive come-back in February
1998 consisted of only another 4 matches before he finally succumbed to what
was diagnosed as bad ankle ligament damage. It took another two months
before the true problem was revealed: a fracture.
Mitch was out until October 1998, when he made a surprise comeback as
a substitute in the Goodison
derby. Some wondered if this was just an opportunity for Walter Smith
to put him in the shop window as he knows he must trim the squad
before he can buy again. However, Mitch was not one of the first five
non-performers offered up for transfer by Walter Smith at the end
of his disappointing first season, and he was handed a few chances
to run out for the Blues in the early matches of the 1999-2000 season.
In some of those matches, Mitch Ward actually did quite well, only to be
"rewarded" with the captaincy of a severely depleted rotational side in the
ill-fated Worthington Cup tie against
Oxford United. Subsequent injury kept him out of the side for a large part of the season,
and the usual rumblings about a return to The Blades started up again.
But the move in the end came to Yorkshire rivals, Barnsley. Mitch Ward
is unlikely to be remembered as one of Goodison's Greats...