27 October 2007

Noel Ward


Name: Noel Gerard Ward
Born: 8 December 1952, Donemana, Co. Tyrone
Height: 6.02 ft
Weight: 12.10 st
Position: Centre-Back

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: Youth.
Club Honours: (with Derry City) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1970/71; North-West Cup Winner; (with Wigan) Northern Premier League Runner-Up 1977/78.
Club Career:
Teams
Seasons
Signed
Fee
League
FA Cup
FL Cup
Other
Derry City
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Portadown
72/73
-
-
-
-
-
-
Aberdeen
74/75-75/76
-
-
6(1)/0
-
-
-
Wigan Athletic
76/77-79/80
Jul-76
-
47(1)/4
2(0)/0
4(0)/0
*86(0)/7
Ashton
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
TOTALS
-
£-
-
-
-
-
* Northern Premier League games.

Biography:
As a teenage-forward Noel Ward’s two goals fired Derry City to the 1971 Irish Cup Final, only for the Candystripes to lose out 3-0 to Distillery. Following Derry’s resignation from the Irish League early in the 1972/73 season Ward moved on to Portadown as a semi-pro. He earned another runners-up medal when he came on as a sub as the Ports lost 2-0 to Linfield in the Gold Cup Final in May 1973.

Born in Donemana, near Strabane, as a youngster Ward played both Association and Gaelic football, but it was the Irish game on which he concentrated after leaving school to start his apprenticeship as a fitter. As is so often the case, he was spotted almost by accident, playing in a works match, and invited for a trial by Derry City. He signed amateur forms and was one of the few bright-lights in Derry’s last few dark seasons as an Irish League club.

Transferred to Aberdeen after just a season with Portadown, Ward was forced to bide his time in the reserves. It was with the Dons that he first started playing in defence, his ample six-foot-plus frame making him an ideal stopper. He made his Scottish League debut against Partick in March 1975 as stand-in centre0half for Willie Young, and with Young’s departure for Spurs early in the following season it seemed Ward would make that role his own. It was not to be as new manager, and future Scotland boss, Ally McLeod just didn’t seem to “fancy” the young Irishman.

After playing out the remainder of his Aberdeen career in the reserves, often being employed as goalkeeper, Ward moved on to Northern Premier League side, Wigan Athletic. A legendary figure at Wigan, Ward played over eighty matches for the club outside the Football League, helping them to a third round FA Cup appearance against Birmingham and runners-up spot in the NPL in 1978. With Southport voted out of League football, Wigan were promoted to take their place due to NPL champions, Boston’s ground not meeting the required standards.

Ward was a member of the Wigan eleven that took the field for their first match as a Football League club against Hereford on 19 August 1978. His form in the Fourth Division was being monitored by Danny Blanchflower who invited him to Stamford Bridge. While many assumed this was the prelude to a transfer to Chelsea, it was just so the Northern Ireland boss could measure Ward up as an international. Obviously impressed, Blanchflower brought Ward into the squad at the expense of the likes of Jim Hagan and Mal Donaghy, both of whom were playing at a higher level.

International honours never arrived as Ward was injured against Portsmouth on 1 September 1979 and forced to retire at the end of that season. In May 1982 he was awarded a testimonial match as Chelsea visited Springfield Park. He also took to the field again as player-manager of Ashton, settling in the Wigan area to work as manager of a local supermarket.

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