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In conversation with John Ward - Manager 1997-98


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Latest Episode of the FBC Podcast is this interview with former manager John Ward:

https://foreverbristolcity.podbean.com/e/in-conversation-with-john-ward-manager-bcfc-1997-98/ [ Also available on Spotify]

John Ward's managerial record at City for me, as a fan looking back, is defined by three things: a marvellous season that brought about promotion back to the [now] Championship after a 3 year absence, a questionable summer '98 transfer window and asking for help after a 9 game winless run at the start of the 98/99 season.

Wardy is a top man and to my mind should have been here longer than 84 games. He would have won the league as opposed to being runners up to Watford had top scorer Shaun Goater not been sold with 8 games remaining. As you'll hear in the interview, the summer transfer dealings were, in part, not down to him and no one would have argued with Ray Harford coming in to provide the help he perhaps naively admitted he needed. 

John made his name in football as a player with Lincoln City [91 goals, 240 appearances] which is where he met the late Graham Taylor whom he later served under and enjoyed considerable success with at both Watford and Villa. 

Prior to City he managed the Gas for a period and again 16 years later. In between he took Cheltenham from League 2 to League 1.

He turned 70 last month and his involvement in the game sees him act as a mentor to young coaches through the LMA.

One of football's nice guys, I can't think why anyone would disagree with that.

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IMO he was sacked far too early in the season after promotion, as he was beginning to turn things around. His sacking illustrates one of the things wrong with the club - either mangers are sacked too early or are given far too long when it’s obvious that their time is up 

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Erm, he wasn't sacked lads. We wanted to bring in a Director of Football, literally the same as everyone is expecting us to do now with Nigel Pearson, and Ward was having none of it. 

Not saying we were right to go down this path or that soon into that season, but in footballing terms we would have been ahead of the curve - Ward disagreed, which is fair enough.

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25 minutes ago, pongo88 said:

IMO he was sacked far too early in the season after promotion, as he was beginning to turn things around. His sacking illustrates one of the things wrong with the club - either mangers are sacked too early or are given far too long when it’s obvious that their time is up 

He was shafted more than once in this short time here. Firstly when the board decided to cash in by selling Goater and then in the summer transfer window when they signed one striker too many - Tony Thorpe [to add to Akinbiyi & Andersen]. If you listen around the hour mark in the interview he says Thorpe was not his signing and he wanted to keep the money in reserve to see how his defence held together at the higher level.

It was brave [perhaps naive] to say he needed help and Harford, as someone else has commented, would have been a sensible choice. What possessed Scott Davidson to get Benny Lennartsson I will never know!!

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2 minutes ago, MC RISK77 said:

Pretty sure he got sacked after we beat Bolton at home in a televised game 2-1...I thought he was about to turn things around but didn’t get the chance

You are correct. That win was well deserved. Benny's first two games were 0-5 at Bradford City and 1-6 at home to Wolves. I guess that was the players way of showing how they felt.

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We beat Bolton on SKY and he was getting City to grips with the division. Then they decided a director of football was the way to go. Awful timing and unfair on Ward who I think would have given us a much better chance of survival that season.

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11 minutes ago, Clevedon Red said:

Didn’t Ward admit he didn’t know what to do or how to improve performances so they bought BL in?

Yes, he did.

The transfer dealings that summer defied belief, but who knows how much was Ward & how much Scott Davidson?

Firstly brought in Akinbiyi for a club record fee (brilliant) then the hugely overrated Tony Thorpe for £1m, but our sole defensive recruit was Julian Watts on a free transfer (shit) & even more bizarrely mediocre L1 defender Carl Hutchings from Brentford for £130k who Ward somehow saw as a Carlton Palmer type midfielder, utter shite.

We then decided to spend all the remaining transfer budget on another striker Soren Andersen which meant we could realistically only play 2 out of 3 of the summer signings.

For all this “give him more time” Ward never managed another club at Championship level, he was a lower league manager for me.

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I think there's much criticism aimed at the very experienced successful coach Benny Lennartsson because of the popularity of John Ward. As Headhunter stated, the players showed their feelings when losing the first two games he was in charge of. I believe, he actually tightened us up defensively and got us playing as a much better organised team. I think there were numerous episodes of pure bad luck as well, particularly Mickey Bell Braking his leg at WBA and a really dodgy penalty at home to Ipswich, which all but sealed our fate for the run in as it seemed all was against us.

If you forget the two results after JW packed his bags, which I honestly think is a fair thing to do. The points per game was about the same, PL 16, pts 15 under ward, PL 28, pts 27 under Benny. What was different was the tighter games after a while. PL 16, Goals against 31 under Ward, almost two per game, PL 28, GA 37 under Benny, 1.3 per game. Even if you added those two extra games in he would still have had a goals against of 1.6 per game. So I don't think it's fair to see him portrayed as a buffoon, as many on here do.

Tin hat at the ready.

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18 minutes ago, GrahamC said:

Yes, he did.

The transfer dealings that summer defied belief, but who knows how much was Ward & how much Scott Davidson?

Firstly brought in Akinbiyi for a club record fee (brilliant) then the hugely overrated Tony Thorpe for £1m, but our sole defensive recruit was Julian Watts on a free transfer (shit) & even more bizarrely mediocre L1 defender Carl Hutchings from Brentford for £130k who Ward somehow saw as a Carlton Palmer type midfielder, utter shite.

We then decided to spend all the remaining transfer budget on another striker Soren Andersen which meant we could realistically only play 2 out of 3 of the summer signings.

For all this “give him more time” Ward never managed another club at Championship level, he was a lower league manager for me.

Didn't he sign Dyche or was that the previous season? 

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14 minutes ago, Pezo said:

Didn't he sign Dyche or was that the previous season? 

Previous season, he signed him but he was in the promotion campaign (injured a lot) alongside Rob Edwards & Shaun Taylor.

Edited by GrahamC
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1 hour ago, Olé said:

Erm, he wasn't sacked lads. We wanted to bring in a Director of Football, literally the same as everyone is expecting us to do now with Nigel Pearson, and Ward was having none of it. 

Not saying we were right to go down this path or that soon into that season, but in footballing terms we would have been ahead of the curve - Ward disagreed, which is fair enough.

I think we’re into technicalities here, He resigned after Benny was brought in without his knowledge, which undermined his position.   If it was a non football situation he would probably won a case of constructive dismissal. If I remember correctly he wanted to bring in Ray Hartford, not as a Director of Football but more as an assistant coach, but the board turned this down. 

36 minutes ago, Clevedon Red said:

Didn’t Ward admit he didn’t know what to do or how to improve performances so they bought BL in?

He did say that, which as probably a mistake. Every season, in every league, managers get a bit stuck for ideas but usually don’t make their failings public. They normally, if they want to keep their job, they keep quite and work it out. 

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33 minutes ago, pongo88 said:

I think we’re into technicalities here, He resigned after Benny was brought in without his knowledge, which undermined his position.   If it was a non football situation he would probably won a case of constructive dismissal. If I remember correctly he wanted to bring in Ray Hartford, not as a Director of Football but more as an assistant coach, but the board turned this down. 

He did say that, which as probably a mistake. Every season, in every league, managers get a bit stuck for ideas but usually don’t make their failings public. They normally, if they want to keep their job, they keep quite and work it out. 

Think ward said he was sacked by finding out in the newspaper on a Monday morning and never meet Benny at all. 

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1 hour ago, Rich said:

I think there's much criticism aimed at the very experienced successful coach Benny Lennartsson because of the popularity of John Ward. As Headhunter stated, the players showed their feelings when losing the first two games he was in charge of. I believe, he actually tightened us up defensively and got us playing as a much better organised team. I think there were numerous episodes of pure bad luck as well, particularly Mickey Bell Braking his leg at WBA and a really dodgy penalty at home to Ipswich, which all but sealed our fate for the run in as it seemed all was against us.

If you forget the two results after JW packed his bags, which I honestly think is a fair thing to do. The points per game was about the same, PL 16, pts 15 under ward, PL 28, pts 27 under Benny. What was different was the tighter games after a while. PL 16, Goals against 31 under Ward, almost two per game, PL 28, GA 37 under Benny, 1.3 per game. Even if you added those two extra games in he would still have had a goals against of 1.6 per game. So I don't think it's fair to see him portrayed as a buffoon, as many on here do.

Tin hat at the ready.

The bloke was a clueless bafoon as a manager totally out of his depth and served no purpose to us

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16 minutes ago, Street red said:

Think ward said he was sacked by finding out in the newspaper on a Monday morning and never meet Benny at all. 

He resigned. He wasn’t sacked. You can argue about whether that’s “technicalities”, but there’s no way he could have ‘found out about it’ in a newspaper because he had to instigate the resignation. 

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13 minutes ago, frenchred said:

The bloke was a clueless bafoon as a manager totally out of his depth and served no purpose to us

I think it was like a lot of things we’ve done as a club over the years, handled hopelessly. Benny wasn’t brought in as a manager, to front things up. That was what John Ward did, and well. Benny was a coach. And , I always thought anyway, a good one. But we managed to drive a good potential DoF in John Ward out, and at the same time leave Benny in a position he never came here to fulfil. Stupid beyond belief. 

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3 hours ago, headhunter said:

He was shafted more than once in this short time here. Firstly when the board decided to cash in by selling Goater 

Not so sure on Goater. Was it a bit similar to Fam…contract ending get something now or leaves for nowt later…and he wanted off to the big time ?  Sometimes your damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  Wish we sold Fam while back rather than write off 5 million . Said few weeks back in a post I hope NP can find the next Goat 

Edited by DT The Optimist
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4 hours ago, headhunter said:

Latest Episode of the FBC Podcast is this interview with former manager John Ward:

https://foreverbristolcity.podbean.com/e/in-conversation-with-john-ward-manager-bcfc-1997-98/ [ Also available on Spotify]

John Ward's managerial record at City for me, as a fan looking back, is defined by three things: a marvellous season that brought about promotion back to the [now] Championship after a 3 year absence, a questionable summer '98 transfer window and asking for help after a 9 game winless run at the start of the 98/99 season.

Wardy is a top man and to my mind should have been here longer than 84 games. He would have won the league as opposed to being runners up to Watford had top scorer Shaun Goater not been sold with 8 games remaining. As you'll hear in the interview, the summer transfer dealings were, in part, not down to him and no one would have argued with Ray Harford coming in to provide the help he perhaps naively admitted he needed. 

John made his name in football as a player with Lincoln City [91 goals, 240 appearances] which is where he met the late Graham Taylor whom he later served under and enjoyed considerable success with at both Watford and Villa. 

Prior to City he managed the Gas for a period and again 16 years later. In between he took Cheltenham from League 2 to League 1.

He turned 70 last month and his involvement in the game sees him act as a mentor to young coaches through the LMA.

One of football's nice guys, I can't think why anyone would disagree with that.

My Dad was visiting from Oz and we met Wardy in the car park before the game and had a good chat. At half time an announcement was made welcoming Pops to AG. Top man Mr Ward, it made the old boys day.

Edited by BigTone
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4 hours ago, GrahamC said:

Yes, he did.

The transfer dealings that summer defied belief, but who knows how much was Ward & how much Scott Davidson?

Firstly brought in Akinbiyi for a club record fee (brilliant) then the hugely overrated Tony Thorpe for £1m, but our sole defensive recruit was Julian Watts on a free transfer (shit) & even more bizarrely mediocre L1 defender Carl Hutchings from Brentford for £130k who Ward somehow saw as a Carlton Palmer type midfielder, utter shite.

We then decided to spend all the remaining transfer budget on another striker Soren Andersen which meant we could realistically only play 2 out of 3 of the summer signings.

For all this “give him more time” Ward never managed another club at Championship level, he was a lower league manager for me.

Tony Thorpe overated ?

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6 hours ago, headhunter said:

Latest Episode of the FBC Podcast is this interview with former manager John Ward:

https://foreverbristolcity.podbean.com/e/in-conversation-with-john-ward-manager-bcfc-1997-98/ [ Also available on Spotify]

John Ward's managerial record at City for me, as a fan looking back, is defined by three things: a marvellous season that brought about promotion back to the [now] Championship after a 3 year absence, a questionable summer '98 transfer window and asking for help after a 9 game winless run at the start of the 98/99 season.

Wardy is a top man and to my mind should have been here longer than 84 games. He would have won the league as opposed to being runners up to Watford had top scorer Shaun Goater not been sold with 8 games remaining. As you'll hear in the interview, the summer transfer dealings were, in part, not down to him and no one would have argued with Ray Harford coming in to provide the help he perhaps naively admitted he needed. 

John made his name in football as a player with Lincoln City [91 goals, 240 appearances] which is where he met the late Graham Taylor whom he later served under and enjoyed considerable success with at both Watford and Villa. 

Prior to City he managed the Gas for a period and again 16 years later. In between he took Cheltenham from League 2 to League 1.

He turned 70 last month and his involvement in the game sees him act as a mentor to young coaches through the LMA.

One of football's nice guys, I can't think why anyone would disagree with that.

His only problem for me was that he always referred to us as "This football club" and never heard him say City once.

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6 hours ago, frenchred said:

I realize it's your style but your questions are often longer than the answers and you even interrupt your star guests not just Ian!

From my point of view "a cider with" are so much easier to listen too

Agreed @frenchred

Just listened to the interview and thought there were lots of opportunities for John to answer a question in more detail before being talked over, or being told an opinion. 
especially the sacking part- felt like he was ready to give some more detail on how he found out etc and that was ruined by him being spoken over and told about Benny’s first 2 games. 
 

Appreciate the time and effort that goes into these, but maybe letting the guest have more air time might make it a more insightful piece of content. 
 

 

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20 minutes ago, ohhhshauntaylor said:

Agreed @frenchred

Just listened to the interview and thought there were lots of opportunities for John to answer a question in more detail before being talked over, or being told an opinion. 
especially the sacking part- felt like he was ready to give some more detail on how he found out etc and that was ruined by him being spoken over and told about Benny’s first 2 games. 
 

Appreciate the time and effort that goes into these, but maybe letting the guest have more air time might make it a more insightful piece of content. 
 

 

Agree with that. A very irritating interviewing style. Just ask the question and be quiet. If we’ve tuned in it’s because we want to hear John Ward.

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  • The title was changed to In conversation with John Ward - Manager 1997-98

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