Drink, betting drugs and stir
MARK WARD was the only player that Hammers legend John Lyall signed without seeing him play. Stuart Pearce described him as the toughest player he ever came up against. He was a vital member of arguably the greatest ever West Ham team that finished third
MARK WARD was the only player that Hammers legend John Lyall signed without seeing him play.
Stuart Pearce described him as the toughest player he ever came up against. He was a vital member of arguably the greatest ever West Ham team that finished third in Division One in 1986.
But Ward will, undoubtedly, be best remembered in years to come as a shamed footballer; a footballer who was sentenced to eight years in prison after becoming involved in the drug trade.
After serving four years of his stretch, Ward was released earlier this month, and to coincide with that he has teamed up with Tony McDonald, a veteran of books on the Hammers, to release his story - 'Mark Ward - From Right Wing to B Wing - Premier League to Prison'.
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This book is gripping from start to finish, but it is also a moral conundrum.
As the former West Ham winger discovered when appearing on radio last week, there are a lot of people out there who believe this book should never have been published.
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How can anyone convicted of a drugs offence be allowed to make money telling us how it all happened?
Well, that is certainly a valid view, but anyone who has read this book would quickly realise how important it is to discover just how easily a highly-paid professional sportsman can get involved with the seedy, underbelly of society just as Ward did back in his native Liverpool.
This is a no-holds barred tale of drinking, gambling, more drinking, more gambling and of course some top class football.
Ward worships Lyall, hates Lou Macari, loves Howard Kendall, hates Mike Walker and that is a theme running all the way through this book. Everything is black or white.
This is a book that takes us back to a world of football that we thought had all but disappeared. A world where a West Ham player can be treated disgracefully by his team-mates simply because of his sexual persuasion.
The likes of Ledley King may still be hitting the headlines because of their love of a drink, the likes of Matty Etherington may face problems because of their gambling habits, but in the days of 'Wardy' it seems that it was the norm rather than the exception.
It was the culture and for those who couldn't take it, there was a downward spiral which led, in Ward's case, to jail.
The winger's description of his first months in prison is certainly harrowing, but many will say that he deserved it, while his constant insistence on his peripheral role in the crimes that sent him to prison, do not do him any favours.
The hell that is Walton Prison, turned eventually to an open prison and home visits, outdoor work and the sort of incarceration that would have a Daily Mail reader choking on his cornflakes.
Few are spared Ward's criticism, including a notorious Liverpool gangster, while West Ham fans will be overjoyed to read a couple of anecdotes about Paul Ince.
But what comes over in the end is that Mark Ward was at best na�ve, at worst up to his neck in the drug trade.
But most of all, he was a good footballer who in the end wasted so much of his talent.
Should this book have been published? Absolutely. Is it worth reading? Definitely.
To order a signed copy of the book in hardback for �15.00 (post-free in the UK), contact publishers Football World on their Credit Card Hotline: 01708 744 333, or order online at www.footballworld.co.uk. Alternatively, send a cheque for �15.00 (payable to Football World) to: Football World (MW Book), 103 Douglas Road, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 1AW.