Bristol Rovers sign former Blackpool, Ipswich Town and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder
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Ward was released by Blackpool last week with his short-term deal not renewed following a change in manager with former Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy replacing Michael Appleton. He had been training and rehabilitating with the Tangerines in the summer, and rejoined the club that released him in the summer in October, but has now moved on and joined Rovers on a free transfer.
Ward began his career at Tottenham Hotspur in 2011, but failed to make an appearance in the five-years he spent in North London. He had loan spells at MLS side Chicago Fire, as well as spells in the Championship with both Coventry City and Rotherham United.
In August 2016, Ipswich bought Ward from Spurs for an undisclosed fee which was reported to be just over half-a-million, despite his former clubs being interested. At Portman Road, he played regularly in his first two-years, accumalating 82 appearances for the Tractor Boys. An anterior cruciate ligament injury however in his third campaign in Suffolk, limited him to just 15 appearances and he was allowed to leave.
Ward moved to Blackpool in December 2019 after a spell out on the sidelines and did enough to earn an 18-month contract, making seven appearances in his first season, before following it up by playing 44 matches in Blackpool’s promotion-winning campaign in 2020/21.
His injury problems returned however and he played just five times last season in the Championship and was released by Neil Critchley, who later left his post to join Steven Gerrard as an assistant at Aston Villa. Appleton returned and with Ward still training at Bloomfield Road, was offered a short-term deal, making two appearances for the Lancashire club.
He will wear the number eight shirt and will provide competition in the centre of midfield, competing with the likes of Sam Finley, Antony Evans, Luke McCormick, Paul Coutts and 38-year-old player-coach Glenn Whelan.
His arrival coincides with the news that summer signing Jordan Rossiter has suffered a setback in his recovery. Rossiter had built up a formidable partnerhip with Finley but suffered a knee injury against MK Dons in mid-December.
Rossiter had been nearing a return and returned to the training ground to continue his recovery with a return just after the transfer window likely before his setback. He will be unable to train for at least the next two weeks, which would rule him out of contention for several matches.
"Jordy has had a setback in his rehab, which will prolong him more than we thought," Barton revealed in his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Morecambe on Saturday.
"He was back on the grass this week so we were thinking he was going to be two or three weeks from here. That is not going to be the case now.
"How long it is, I’m not sure until he speaks to people, but it probably rules him out for the foreseeable. He’s had a flare up and he needs to speak to the physios and have the scans and find out what that is, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be back on the grass in the next two weeks, which was the hope."