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Ashley Ward

Norwich Career: 1994-1996 (60 appearances, 21 goals)
Current Club: Retired
Date of Birth: 24/11/1970
Nationality: English


Ashley Ward signed for Norwich from Crewe Alexandra for £350,000 in December 1994. Prior to joining Norwich, Ashley was with Crewe Alexandra and had scored 25 goals for them in 61 league appearances. Originally a trainee with Manchester City, Ashley has also spent time at Leicester City (10 league appearances) and has had loan spells at Wrexham and Blackpool.
Within a day of his arrival, Ashley made his Canaries debut against Chelsea scoring twice in the first half. He made it three goals in two games when he netted the following week away to Crystal Palace. Ashley played an important role in Norwich's unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation that season scoring eight times in twenty five appearances. In Division One, Ashley added another ten league and three Coca Cola Cup goals before transferring to Derby County on 21st March 1996. His spell at the Baseball Ground was marred with injury problems. On 3rd September 1997, Ashley moved to fellow Premiership side Barnsley for an initial fee of £1.3million with an additional £250,000 if Barnsley avoid relegation this season and Derby receiving 20 percent of any future transfer fee.

Since the move, Ashley's career has been one of million pound transfers and plenty of speculation. Ashley's impressive form for Barnsley in their heroic struggle against relegation won him the respect of Scottish giants Celtic, according to Yahoo's Teamtalk service. Supposedly Celtic made a £3million bid for Ashley's services. Leicester manager Martin O'Neill was also rumoured to be interested in signing Ashley whilst Ashley's former Barnsley manager Danny Wilson was interested in taking Ashley to Hillsborough to play for Wilson's Sheffield Wednesday side. Wilson would raise the funds by selling the troubled Paolo Di Canio. However the Sunday People suggested on 11th October that Ashley would be the target of a £3million bid from Martin O'Neill once he takes over at Leeds. This rumour of a move to Elland Road continued with George Graham's successor David O'Leary said to be keen on securing Ashley's services. According to The Sun on 18th November, Barnsley also rejected a £3.5million bid from Leciester for Ashley's signature. The pressure seemed to be getting to Ashley. Although he scored Barnsley's opening goal in their November 21st clash with Sunderland, he later missed a penalty and then received a red card for a vicious stamp on Darren Williams. Despite his loss, the Terriers went on to record an impressive 3-2 away win. If tabloid speculation is to be believed then Ashley Ward is the most popular player in football with no less than a third of all Premiership sides linked to him. Blackburn's new manager Brian Kidd offered £4million for him whilst Charlton, Southampton and Everton have all been linked recently with his signature.

Ashley eventually joined Blackburn for £4.5million on Christmas Day 1998. A month later, he was replaced at Oakwell by Mike Sheron. One year later (12th December 1999), the News of the World speculated that Ashley could be set for a return to the Premiership as Spurs were preparing a 1.75million bid for him. Yet Ashley quickly fell out of favour at Ewood Park, Crewe Alexandra were keen to take Ashley back in March 2000 according to Teamtalk. Rumours that Ashley would be departing Ewood Park strengthened following the appointment of Graeme Souness as manager. The media claimed that in his first week in charge, Ward was offered to other Division One and some Premiership sides as Souness seeks to make his own imprint on Blackburn.

In August 2000, Ashley returned to the Premiership in a 1.5million transfer to Bradford City. Only four months later saw Ashley linked with a 1.5million move to Everton, according to Sport First on 17th December 2000. Claims were made in early January 2000 that Ashley would return to Barnsley on loan as he was not part of Jim Jefferies' thinking for the Bradford attack. In contrast to Bradford's opinion on Ashley's abilities, Sport First reported on 16th February 2001 that high-flyers Newcastle were seeking to Ward as cover for Alan Shearer (!) and would offer Stephen Glass in exchange. However the Sunday edition of Sport First reported two days later that Derby manager Jim Smith was looking for a top class striker and was keen on bringing Ward back to Derby. In February 2001, Ashley was linked twice with moves to Lancashire with Bruce Rioch alleged to be preparing a 1million bid for Wigan, and then Bolton boss Sam Allardyce denying that Ward was the striker he was trying to sign. Unfortunately for Ashley, his next battle with relegation was less successful as Bradford dropped out of the top flight on 28th April 2001. The Sunday People reported as recently as 13th May 2001 that Derby were willing to pay 1million to re-sign Ashley.

In February 2002 it looked as if Ashley would rejoin Barnsley on a free transfer but he could not agreee a suitable contractual pay-off from Bradford. At the beginning of March 2002, it was suggested that Ward might join financially-strapped Nottingham Forest who had sold Stern John to Birmingham and lost David Johnson to Burnley on loan. Ashley was also linked wth a switch to Everton before Walter Smith was sacked.

Bradford went into administration in May 2002 due to their financial difficulties and on May 23rd, 16 players had their contracts terminated with immediate effect by the adminstrators. Ward was one of the unlucky ones. Such a move sparked a outrage from the Professional Footballers Association and their deputy Chief Executive Mick McGuire. Ashley was soon linked with a move to his former club Barnsley despite their relegation to Division Two. At the end of June 2002, the media linked Wolves with a move for Ward.

The 20th of September 2002 saw the media suggest that Ashley would be joining First Division pace-setters Portsmouth on a free transfer. Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp confirmed he wanted to sign Ward whilst Bradford confirmed that Portsmouth had approached them. A return to the Premiership was suggested in early October 2002 with media speculation linking him with a move to Sunderland. Mere weeks later, it was rumoured that new Ipswich manager Joe Royle was hoping to bring in Ward on loan after an approach for Arsenal's Francis Jeffers was turned down. At the beginning of 2003, a loan move to Nottingham Forest surfaced in the Sunday People.

The first weekend of August 2003 saw increased media speculation concerning Ward's future with former club Derby said to be keen on bringing Ward back. Shef United manager Neil Warnock confirmed that he had made enquiries about Ward's availability. On Tuesday 5th 2003, Ward and Bradford parted company in mutual agreement leaving him free to join another club. He opted for Sheffield United. He stayed until May 2005 when he was released. According to reports in the East Anglian Daily Times on 1st June 2005, Ipswich are looking to sign Ward. On June 12th 2005, the People suggested that Ashley might reunite with his former Barnsley manager Danny Wilson at Milton Keynes Dons - Stockport are also said to be keen.

Now retired, Ashley runs a luxury property development company, specialising in the building and renovation of luxury homes in Cheshire. He has built many footballers homes including those of Kevin Campbell and Wayne Rooney.

In March 2011, Ward had talks with Wrexham about a takeover at the Racecourse Ground. He said "I have also had it confirmed to me, by the current owners, that none of the other interested parties have a preferred bidder status. I anticipate being in a position to make a formal announcement shortly. made my league debut at Wrexham and they helped me get my football career started. I have always had a soft spot for the club and hope that I will be able to help restore Wrexham to its rightful position, not only in the Football League, but in time back into the Championship"


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