Shortly after his departure from York Street, FBYF editor Richard O Smith caught up with Ward to discuss his time at the Pilgrims……
FBYF: Was any official explanation offered for the club not reinstating you?
W: When George rang to inform me that my registration was not being retained at Boston he didn’t really give any explanation. He proceeded to tell me how well I’d done for him when he took over from Ronnie in what was an unorthodox midfield role. And he told me that I was an important factor in the recovery the side made with the long unbeaten run (12 or 13 games I think!) following Ronnie’s departure. He said that he had told the board this but it was felt he time was right to bring some new faces into the club.
My personal reaction was one of disgust seeing that I had to miss the last three months of the season through injury, sustained at Barnet while doing my best for the club, I tried to come back too soon from my ankle injury because I wanted to try and help the club to some success in the league, but only managed to aggravate it still further. An x-ray showed I had chipped the ankle bone and rest was the only cure. Whether I did this in the first instance at Barnet or by coming back and playing too soon I don’t know, but I felt that I had deserved a bit more loyalty than I was shown after three years with the club.
FBYF: Although it’s almost an impossible question, would you name the best player you played with, and against during your time at BUFC? And which GMVC side impressed you the most?
W: I had the privilege to play with a number of quality players at Boston – none with more ability than Paul Hooks. But he didn’t quite seem to have the appetite for the game as some, and only played to his full ability on a few occasions. Gregg Fee was the opposite in terms of commitment and that harnessed with no small amount of ability now sees him in the first division with Sheffield Wednesday. If I had to stick my neck out though I would go for a current player – Paul Shirtliff. In my opinion he is first class. He always seems to have lots of time on the ball and is equally happy whether defending or going forward.
Steve Butler of Maidstone is probably the player who most impressed me from all the opposition and he always seemed to do well against us. His team from last year were probably the best side I have played against although the Barnet side from those epic Trophy encounters were equally impressive.
FBYF: How content were you with the contemporary standard of refereeing in the GHVC? There frequently appeared to be a considerably larger gap between the League and Conference standards in refereeing than football.
W: The standard of refereeing in the GMVC did, at times, leave a lot to be desired, though you also came across a few bad refs in the football league as well. The problem will always be there until they have full-time referees from within the game (e.g. ex-professionals) and I1a sure the P.F.A, could set up a training scheme to help bring it into being. There does appear to be a lack of referees coming through from grass roots level, though this is not at all surprising when you consider some of the abuse they have to put up with (at all levels of the game!) from players and crowds alike.
FBYF: Feel free to list any first hand experiences of unfair bookings, sendings-off, world stopping injustices etc…
W: The only time I’ve been sent off in my career was against Gainsborough in the FA Cup. I deserved it, so I don’t feel I have ever really been the victim of any real injustice.
FBYF: Does playing in a stadium as good as York Street often lift the game of the visitors, particularly sides who think they’ve arrived in the big time after playing in front of pigeon hut main stands like Runcorn, Welling, Fisher etc?
W: I do think that the old saying “if you can’t play here you can’t play anywhere!” is quite often used by visiting managers during their team talks when playing at York Street, It certainly is the best ground in non-league football and is really crying out for Football League status, and must obviously inspire the visiting sides to play above themselves,
FBYF: What are your thoughts on the club’s decision to sell Paul Wilson to Yeovil?
WV: You don’t sell your better players if you are an ambitious club and you certainly don’t sell them for less than they are worth. If Gary Abbot is worth £40,000 then so is Paul Wilson. It’s as simple as that. The most annoying thing I should imagine for Boston supporters must be the fact that what money was received hasn’t been used to replace Paul, I know from talking to Paul that he was disappointed that the club even considered selling him to a rival club and although he didn’t really want to go, he felt he had to. The same sentiments were echoed last season to me by Glen Beech after his move to Kettering, and if you look at today’s side who has replaced either of them?
FBYF: Whatever Kerr does he certainly believes in doing it with as much publicity as possible, either courting publicity for the benefit of the club or risking personality collision courses. As a professional, what did you think of his methods?
W: George is very much a man for the limelight and feels that any publicity is good publicity. Boston United were certainly mentioned a lot more nationally after his arrival. He has been known to upset some players by comments attributed to him in the local press, but that is his way. My personal view is that you can set yourself up to be shot at by promising success for the supporters, and it can backfire if things don’t go according to plan. I once remember an article in which George said the biggest mistake he made at Lincoln was releasing me when I had finished leading scorer at the club and that I had matured as a player at Boston. However it didn’t stop him doing it again to me!
FBYF: Having played under two separate Boston managers, how would you describe the team spirit under the two? Including all the managers you’ve played for in your career, who would you describe as the best and why?
W: The key to a good club and to a large extent success an the field is a good team spirit. That was certainly in abundance when I first joined the club. In my first season with the club we finished joint fifth in the league and had a good Trophy run after having been near the bottom when I joined in the September, We had two really good runs of form that year and a lot of it was down to the camaraderie and wisecracking in the dressing room. The team spirit last year for the early part of the season wasn’t what it should have been as certain players were not given a fair crack of the whip and this, I feel, contributed to “Black November”.
The best manager I’ve played under was Denis Smith at York City, who was helped in no small way by his assistant Viv Busby (now both a success at Sunderland), Denis used to hate losing and instilled this into his team and they were never allowed to rest on their laurels. Viv Busby on the other hand was more easy-going and the perfect foil for Denis, and this helped create a good team spirit at the club. I was there originally as a non-contract player and was a regular in the Central League side. I learnt an awful lot from Viv, who was himself a forward in his playing days.
I broke into the first team squad at the end of the 84-85 season and made my league debut against Rotherham, I was lucky enough to score twice in a 3-0 win. Rotherham dismissed their manager (George Kerr) soon afterwards – little did I know our paths would meet again and again! I scored-again in our next game, a 2-0 win at Hull City in front of almost 16,000 fans, and I was on top of the world. Denis, however, hadn’t decided whether or not to offer me full terms. I was a little bemused with football and left after the final two games and joined Lincoln City. I had the utmost respect for Denis, however, and will always be grateful to him and Viv for giving me a break. It’s no surprise to see them doing so well now at Sunderland.
FBYF: Do you think the present directors set-up at the club should provide fans with concern? A tactful “no comment” may be employed here…
W: The set-up is somewhat vague to me as Mr Malkinson and Mr Bell are the only two I ever met in three years at the club. I would be hard pushed to name the other directors so I can’t really comment.
FBYF: Have you ever experienced racial abuse or intimidation of youngsters directed at players from their fellow professionals during a game?
W: Not personally – I’ve never been called a white bastard!
FBYF: Verbal intimidation of players orated from the crowd is commonplace in the modern game and always ignored by players, but does it ever affect players? Do you ever find yourself wanting to have a go back?
W: The crowd at York Street are well known for their impatience and their ability to crucify players who they feel aren’t doing well enough (Farmer Dan and his friends). Some players as a result can become anxious about playing at home for fear of abuse and this can have a detrimental effect an their game.
In recent years Jeff Lissaman and Gavin Ottewell were given some unfair stick at times and I know bath players were affected by it. Only last season Allen Crombie was given some cruel stick (when he probably shouldn’t have played due to lack of match fitness, having missed almost two months) for basically helping the club out of a predicament.
On a personal note it amuses me to hear the “experts” give their advice and I feel it should be taken with a pinch of salt. One incident last year springs to mind when against Fisher Athletic (my first full league game for seven months) a ball was knocked aver the top that a greyhound would have done well to catch. It prompted a shout of “You’re a carthorse Ward!”, which, had me laughing to myself, Heedless to say when I put us 1-0 up about five minutes later with a header, a little wave was given towards the vicinity of the “expert”. It must be said, however, that the crowd at Boston United are one of the best and deserve success on the field. At the present moment they have my sympathy.
FBYF: What are your fondest memories of your tins with United?
W: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Boston and was sad that it ended on a bit of a sour note for me. One of my fondest memories was my first game as captain away at Cheltenham after the Leyton-Wingate debacle, when we won 5-1. I was certainly honoured to captain the club through until the end of the season. The best games I played in were in the Trophy run of 86-87 when we came from behind to beat Frickley 4-3 after being 3-1 down. And also the replay against Barnet when we drew 3-3 and I managed to score twice – one in the dying seconds of extra time. That was the first game I’ve ever been kissed at afterwards on the pitch, by an excited old man who came onto the pitch to celebrate.
I also enjoyed last season’s game against Aylesbury when Dave Grant was ordered off and I had to play left back for over an hour for the first time in my career. The only positions I didn’t play at Boston were right back and in goal, I almost did the latter at Nuneaton one year but Cookie got the gloves off Eric McManus first.
FBYF: Obviously we wish you good luck in pastures new at Kings Lynn, if somewhat regretful that your aerial abilities up front, and midfield skills, are now being used across the Fosdyke Bridge (mare jams than Hartley’s). There’s a strong ex-Pilgrims contingent there. How’s it going?
VW: As you will now know I have joined several other ex-Boston United players down the road at King’s Lynn under the guidance of Keith Rudd and Jim Kabia, Jim was one of the main reasons that I joined the club as I knew him from his second spell at Boston. We’ve managed to get a useful squad together including ex-Pilgrims Derrick Nuttell, Billy Millar, Ged Creane, Chris Moyses and Nigel Carter along with Jim and myself. I am currently playing in a midfield role which I enjoy most of all these days, and we have just begun to pick up after a shaky start. We drew one and lost three of our first four games all away, but have remained unbeaten in the next four to be positioned just under half way (as of 4th October).
We lost to Bromsgrove in the FA. Cup (bad memories!) and are hoping to go all the way in the F.A. Vase. The set up at Kings Lynn is first class and much like Boston, crying out for success. The crowds average at present between 500 and 750. The team spirit is superb and has been a key factor in getting over the early season hiccups without which we could have struggled. Our latest transfer target is a certain Dave Mossman – unceremoniously sacked at Boston for working!! A factor I gather is a root of some discord at York Street amongst players. Team spirit is ESSENTIAL.
See the 1989/1990 season in full at Ken Fox’s BUFC site HERE
© Richard O Smith 1989 | This article originally appeared in From Behind Your Fences, issue 6. Reproduced with permission.