‘All action’: Blackpool insight on new Bristol Rovers signing Grant Ward and how he will fit in

Blackpool football journalist Matt Scrafton gives the lowdown on Bristol Rovers’ newest signing
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Bristol Rovers made their third move in the January transfer window as they signed former Tottenham Hotspur youth midfielder Grant Ward.

Ward joins the Gas eight days after Ellery Ballcombe's move and exactly a week after Jarell Quansah's season-long move from Liverpool was confirmed. Rovers are expected to do more business with Joey Barton wanting up to four more signings, with the loan market to be used once more.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barton did hint at an emphasis on recruiting younger players, and the arrival of Ward is an interesting one, given he is 28-years-old and is signing on the back of recovering from a serious injury.

Blackpool football journalist Matt Scrafton, who works for the Blackpool Gazette, has covered the Tangerines for several years and saw how Ward’s career played out at Bloomfield Road. He provides an insight in to the midfielder, as to how he will fit in at Rovers, and what they are getting.

What kind of midfielder are Bristol Rovers getting in Grant Ward, and what kind of system does he thrive best in?

Grant's a funny one because when he arrived at Blackpool he was advertised as a right winger, while he told the media he preferred to play as a number 10. But he played his best football as an all-action, box-to-box midfielder who would cover plenty of ground. He played his best football in a midfield two in a 4-4-2 under Neil Critchley's structured, disciplined shape, where there was a big focus on off-the-ball work, which is something Grant excelled at.

What are Ward's key strengths and weaknesses?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He's a player that likes to get about the pitch, put himself about and break up play - a lot of the dirty work that isn't particularly pretty, but is key for a team playing in a certain structure and wanting to press. I suppose his weakness, other than his fitness in recent times, is his goal record, but given the role he played at Blackpool there wasn't much emphasis on him getting into the box and on the end of things.

Ward featured heavily in the promotion-winning season in 2020/21, how big of a role did he play? Can he be the difference for Rovers in their play-off push?

He played a key role. At first he went a little under the radar, as players in that area of the pitch often do, but he soon began to pick up plenty of plaudits and deservedly so. He made 44 appearances that season, so he was clearly a player Critchley trusted and relied upon.

A common theme through Ward's career is his injuries, what was the case at Blackpool?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unfortunately so. He first signed under Simon Grayson on a free transfer in December 2019, but only made seven appearances until the end of that season. He played regularly under Critchley the following season but he picked up another serious setback (ruptured achilles tendon) in August 2021 when he was just hitting his stride at the beginning of Blackpool's first season back in the Championship. Seventeen months have passed and he's only made two further appearances.

He hasn't featured for 11 weeks, is he arriving at Rovers 100%?

I doubt it, unfortunately. He'll be fit in terms of having trained regularly since the summer, but he's likely to be very rusty in terms of his match sharpness given his lack of game time. In the two games he did play for Blackpool this season, he struggled and looked off the pace, it has to be said - although in one game he was played as an emergency right-back which didn't help matters. Hopefully he'll get regular game time at Bristol Rovers though and that sharpness will soon return.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.