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2010-12-11T01:43:00 Updated 2015-02-18T22:33:35

Mark Ward

Name: Mark Ward
Date of birth: 10 October 1962, Prescot, England
Position: Midfielder
Debut: Division One, Birmingham City 1-0 West Ham United, 17 August 1985
Final game: Division Two, Ipswich Town 1-0 West Ham United, 26 December 1989
Appearances: 209

Understandably in 1985/86, Mark Ward never got near a penalty for West Ham United. A certain Ray Stewart had the spot-kick duties sewn up and the Scot was not in the mood to hand the ball over to the young winger who had signed in the summer from Oldham Athletic.

Ward was happy to watch Tonka blast pen after pen into the opposition net. He had clearly been taking a few tips, though, and stated his intent soon after arriving at Maine Road in December 1989.

So much so, that by the time the 1990/91 campaign came around, Ward was the No1 penalty taker and went on to convert nine times from 12 yards as City surged up to a fantastic fifth-placed finish.

Ward, however, nearly had the duty taken off him - despite having scored three times from the spot when Leeds United arrived at Maine Road on 11 November 1990.

"I had scored three and they were going in off the post or close to it. For some reason, the manager wasn't too happy.

"He said 'You're hitting the ball too hard and you are going to miss one'. So before the game he said 'No changes from the last game. The only thing is Mark's not on penalties'. I had a 100 per cent record but he said it was 'too close for comfort'.

"So Alan Harper was put on penalties and by luck we got one. We were one-nil down and Alan stepped up and ballooned it over. I didn't say too much, I just gave the manager a look. We got another one in the second half and I picked the ball up without waiting. I smashed it in off the post.

"I had watched Ray do that for many years, just blasting them in. What a great record he had. Penalties were a one-on-one situation and I liked the pressure but I obviously hadn't had the opportunity to take them at West Ham. I did quite well when I started."

That City side of the early 90s was some team, and under player-manager Peter Reid that 1990/91 campaign was the best showing since the 1977/78 season. "It was a good side and Peter Reid had done a great job taking over from Howard Kendall.

"We had a lot of young players and Reidy was brilliant. He was still playing, he was the general and he could still do a bit on the pitch. It was a pleasure to play in that side, it was a magnificent team with Niall Quinn the focal point."

Ward relished playing with the Irish striker, but said the difference to linking up him and with Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee at the Hammers was like "chalk and cheese".

He said: "Quinny was the best 'big man' I ever played with. Defences couldn't handle him and he had a great touch. It was exciting to play with him and he was a gentleman as well. He's turned into a great ambassador for football."

Although fond of his time at City, Ward said it did not quite compare with that great Hammers side of the mid-80s. "I have always said that was the only team I ever played in where it was not 'if' you were going to win but 'how many you were going to win by'. That is how confident I was, especially at home. It wasn't me being cocky, it was just the team spirit we had and the confidence."

Ward might have excelled in London but he has settled now in his native north-west.

Bouncing back after some well-publicised off-field troubles and a spell in prison, he is working as a framework support manager for GB Building Solutions. Interestingly, he is based in Newton Heath just around the corner from the City of Manchester Stadium

"I have got to give credit to a man called Paul Hill, who has given me a managerial role and an unbelievable opportunity to get myself back on track. He has trust and belief in me and given me a second chance. We are working on five major developments in and around Manchester. I see City fans all the time and it is nice that many still remember me as a player.

"They are a fantastic club and are close to my heart like West Ham. I am pleased with the success they are having at the moment. The fans deserve it. I hope West Ham pick up and it was great watching the win against Manchester United the other night. The main thing is that the club stays up and then hopefully they can look forward to better days."

Spot on from a penalty king who knows all about focusing on a brighter future.

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