|Barnet F.C .1968 - Gerry front row, third in from right - Dexter Adams back row, far right|
Midfield Generals? We have had many candidates but this gentleman was probably the ultimate, with style and coolness – and this is my tribute to him.
Who have been the most significant signings for the club over the last 50 odd years – Jimmy Greaves, Les Eason, Gary Bull, Nicky Evans, Roger Figg, Giuliano Grazioli? A question very much open to debate and a very alluring subject if discussed over a few pints.
Although Eason was my fathers hero he had always told me that perhaps the most influential signing in our history was Gerry Ward – as influential as Danny Blanchflower at Spurs or Bobby Charlton at Manchester United. Now that was high praise and as a youngster I was fortunate to witness him play at Underhill. He made nearly 300 appearances scoring 34 goals from midfield assisting with countless others – significant enough.
Gerry signed for Leyton Orient in 1963 becoming the mainstay in their midfield for nearly two years before rather prematurely drifting into the non-league with Cambridge City. Premature maybe but certainly to the advantage of Barnet Football Club.
The great Barnet Manager Dexter Adams realised that even at 31 years of age Gerry still had more than enough ability to play in the top echelon of the Southern League and signed him in the Summer of 1967. In fact he was a revelation and every Barnet player from that era without fail will bestow praise on Gerry.
“He was a celebrity as far as we were concerned and we were in awe of him,” says Eason. “He was like a film star always immaculately turned out, not a hair out of place and with a dimpled chin just like Kirk Douglas” he added with a chuckle. Winger Colin Powell says, “Gerry was the brain in that team, everything went through him and I knew the ball would be perfectly weighted to me to run onto. I would get to the by line cross for Eason and Billy Meadows – simple really”. “He could tackle, shoot and pass with precision” says centre half Ben Embery. “Gordon Ferry and I were told by Dexter to get it down and simply give it to Gerry”. “We were very privileged to have a player the quality of Gerry Ward at the football Club” said Dexter Adams. It is a fact that Ward very rarely had a bad game in six seasons.
Gerry decided to give up playing in 1972 at the age of 37 accepting the position of Assistant Manger to Tommy Coleman before making the obvious transition to Barnet Manager in January 1973.
It is fair to declare that the 14 months with Gerry at the helm was a transitional period for the club and that wonderful team of the late 1960’s had all but disbanded. Money became tight and with the club unable to sign top class players Gerry decided to retire from the game. He could only play one way and the new players at Underhill were not up to the task. As a young boy at the time I found Gerry almost impossible to approach, afraid to even ask for his autograph. Not because of his nature just out of pure respect.
Tragically Gerry died in January 1994 at the age of just 57. Barnet FC honoured the great man with a minute silence before the next possible home game - Plymouth Argyle on February 12th.
The last words are courtesy of Dexter Adams, “Gerry Ward was one of a rare breed of humans who enrich the lives of all those they touch. The ultimate example of a professional footballer. He lived for the game and played it the way it should be played.”
Gerry Ward: Appearances 298 Goals 34