9:00am Saturday 5th April 2014
By Craig Stoddart
PLUMBER, factory worker and fitness instructor are among the occupations represented in the Darlington dressing room, and now they have a goalscoring DJ in the mix.
Ian Ward has had defenders in a spin for Durham City this season, scoring 19 goals in the Northern League, and now he wants to be a smash hit with Quakers.
A DJ at Fabios in Durham once a week and nicknamed the Hoss - as in horse, due to his facial appearance, he insists - though he could easily be known as a gentle giant due to his amiable nature, which contrasts sharply with a physical style on the pitch.
Tall and muscular, Ward looks every inch the target man manager Martin Gray has brought him in to be.
He joined a fortnight ago and he's made an immediate impact, setting up a goal for Nathan Fisher on his debut as a substitute then scoring in his first start last Saturday at Ossett Town.
"I'm over the moon with my start," said Ward, who will feature in today's game at Heritage Park against Radcliffe Borough.
"This has probably been my best season so far in the Northern League and there were a couple of teams that were interested in me. I spoke to Martin and initially I was going to stay at Durham, where I was good friends with the manager and I was playing football.
"It was my decision to do a dual contract at first, but the manager being sacked at Durham was a factor. I spoke to a lot of people before I came here and I think I've made the right decision.
"This is a good opportunity for me, one I couldn't turn down. I've signed until the end of the season and we'll see where it goes from there.
"Everyone who plays football wants to progress and try to move up as high as they can. I've just turned 27 and hopefully I can win a contract here and then who knows where it takes me.
"First and foremost I want to score some goals."
Ward's arrival has given Gray an opportunity to rest Amar Purewal, who has not scored in ten appearances.
The new man, however, has not always been a striker. He explained: "I started out as a centre midfielder and I got pushed up front when I was at Esh Winning. I've been there ever since.
"I'm quite loyal to my teams and I was at Esh Winning for four or five years. My best friend, Andrew Soppitt, got the management job, then I moved to Durham and I kicked on there.
"I got 19 goals there this season, another one last Saturday for Darlo and hopefully I'll get a few more.
"I try to use my strength, that's my main asset. The game-plan was to get the ball into my feet and have Stephen Thompson around me because it worked quite well in my first game against Wakefield.
"My game is to hold the ball up and try to get other people involved in the game.
"I'll run down blind alleys and I think that's what Martin likes, giving your all for the team, and hopefully that will stand us in good stead going forward."
Ward may have found the net 20 times this campaign, but it was in a friendly last summer when he made a lasting impression on Darlington when he impressed Gray.
The striker said: "You always want to play against the best teams and even though it was a pre-season game you still want to test yourself against the best.
"I think there was a flick-on, I ran with the ball and then beat Craig Turns at the near post.
"I'm a gentle giant really and the lads have made me feel welcome.
"I like to keep myself to myself and I'm just gelling into the team at the minute and trying to get to know the lads."
After making five changes last Saturday, more tinkering is expected today as the manager bids to keep his team fresh during the closing stages of the season.
Jordan Robinson remains sidelined with a hamstring strain.
* Darlington are asking for volunteers with pitchforks to help drain the pitch from 8.30am. A referee will inspect the pitch at 9am.
It is a precautionary measure in case of heavy rain last night.
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