12th May – Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward at only 5 foot 5 might have been told at times that he was too small to become a professional but he has spent the majority of his career in one of the toughest leagues in the world.

The Northern Ireland international has enjoyed a lot of good spells during his career and even though his goal record is not superb he has always been appreciated for the work he puts in.

Ward started his career at Aston Villa and despite being involved in a car accident in 2004 he gained a professional contract in 2005 and later became captain of the reserve team. He had to wait until a loan spell at Stockport County to make his first team debut and in his short spell he managed one goal.

After being released by Villa in 2006 he signed for Torquay United and performed well during his time there but after just 25 appearances he requested a transfer and moved to Chesterfield in January 2007. Despite injuries he managed 12 goals for the club in his first season and was being linked with moves away and after rejecting a new contract offer it looked as though the striker was going to move to Barnsley. However, he could not agree personal terms and moved to Sheffield United.

Soccer - Friendly - Chesterfield v Sheffield Wednesday - Saltergate

His time with the Blades had some ups and downs including being sent off in the 2009 Playoff Final against Burnley but after coming back from suspension in the following season he scored four goals in the first seven games including the opening goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Injuries caught up to him and he never regained his form and this led to a loan move to Derby County.

Ward Sheffield United

During his loan spell he scored five goals in 13 games helping his new side stay up while his parent club were relegated from the Championship. In his first full season with the club he wasn’t at his best but once again he became a fan favourite by scoring a goal against their rivals Nottingham Forest in a 2-1 win.

Injuries during the 2012-13 season stopped him from reaching his full potential once again but despite missing significant portions of the season he managed 12 goals in 26 games and finished third in the player of the season votes. A few more decent seasons followed but then he made the shock decision to sign for Nottingham Forest on the 2nd July 2015, especially after some of his antics in recent derby games.

Ward Derby

Although still at Forest, he hasn’t really hit the heights and and has been out on loan twice since signing, firstly to Burton Albion and then to Cardiff City. Ward will be hoping that he can get his injuries behind him next year and reach 100 goals in his career.

The final word can go to former manager Nigel Clough. “He’s a niggly little so-and-so, one of those players you don’t like playing against. We need that feistiness. He gives us options.”

9th November – James Hanson

With it being the FA Cup first round weekend it is a chance for non league players to show their quality against those that get paid to do it full time and it is always good to see players coming from below the Football League to being very good professional players like James Hanson.

Although he didn’t make his mark in the FA Cup he did come from obscurity to become one of the most difficult to mark in League One and has done a fantastic job for Bradford City since he signed for the club. The striker has added a lot to the team and he will be thankful that he has been given the chance to play professionally which a lot of those in the top flight do not.

The 27 year old played youth football for both Huddersfield Town and Bradford but was never given the chance in the first team and had to drop to semi professional level, turning out for Eccleshill United and Guiseley. But to support his dreams of playing football he also had to work in a supermarket on a part time basis. During his two seasons at Guiseley he scored 46 goals and this attracted the interest of Football League clubs.
Hanson BC
In July 2009 Hanson signed his first professional contract with Bradford and would go on to make his debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season in a disappointing 5-0 defeat against Notts County. He would go on to score his first goal in a 5-4 win over Cheltenham Town on the 22nd August and had a very good first season which led to him being given a new contract by the club and being named the Player of the Year.

The following season was much tougher for the striker as he only scored six league goals but he was improving other areas of his game. But came back with his highest goalscoring league season in the 2011-12 season with 13 goals. The next campaign will be remembered for a long time by Bradford fans as they reached the League Cup final and also gained promotion from League Two, with Hanson and Nakhi Wells linking up well and scoring a lot of goals between them. Although Wells got most of the attention, Hanson chipped in with important goals in the big games, including one in the second leg of the League Cup semi final against Aston Villa, one in the semi final of the playoffs against Burton Albion and then another in the final against Northampton Town.
Hanson LC
Hanson was again rewarded with a new contract for his contributions and with his partnership being broken with Wells, some may have thought that he would struggle but he hit a good run of form after the turn of the year and scored six goals in nine games, meaning he finished his first season in League One with 12 goals in 35 games.
Hanson Wells
This season has been up and down for the striker as he started fantastically by scoring five goals early on and entering the club’s top ten all time top scorer list, however injuries have frustrated him since and he has not been able to recapture that form yet but he will be hoping as the season goes on he can continue his good goalscoring record.

The final word can go to teammate Andrew Davies. “Hans is getting better and better and maturing as a person as well. He needs to be our main goal threat. Strikers are judged on goals and he’s scored a few this season. If we’re going to go up this year, and that’s what we all want, then he needs to be scoring the goals.”

22nd May – Stuart Tomlinson

Stuart Tomlinson retired from football in July 2013 and then embarked on a very unique career change and one that surely has never been done before.

In July 2013 he retired from football because of scar tissue damage and a tear in his anterior cruciate ligament meaning that his left knee was in poor shape and he was advised to retire by surgeons. After injuries it can be tough for footballers and the man that was nicknamed ‘The Tank’ decided to go for something new and in December 2013 he travelled to America to sign a developmental contract with the WWE and become a wrestler.

This is something that he probably didn’t expect to happen when he graduated through Crewe Alexandra’s famous youth team. His football career was good and he was a talented keeper which began on the 25th January 2003 when he came on as a substitute for Danny Milosevic in a 3-1 win over Oldham Athletic. At the end of the season he signed his first professional contract and the club were promoted to the First Division so it was a very good start for him personally.
Tommo Crewe
After a few more substitute appearances it was in January 2006 when he finally made his first start against Preston North End in an FA Cup Third Round game which they went on to win 2-1. Tomlinson then got his first start in the league in a 4-2 win over Millwall in April. But it was not until the 2008-09 season that he finally got a decent run in the first team. On the 25th November he was given a start away to Leicester City which they won 2-1 and then played six games over the next month and kept four clean sheets. However his performances were not good enough to convince new manager Gudjon Thordarson to give him a new contract and he left the club.

He dropped out of the Football League to join Barrow even though there were clubs interested in him that were playing in higher divisions. But it gave him the opportunity to play first team football and also win a trophy at Wembley as they won the FA Trophy. In total he played 27 times in his one season at the club but he chose not extend his contract.

Tomlinson signed for Port Vale and manager Micky Adams was very pleased with his new signing. “Signing Stuart means we have real competition for the number one jersey. He is a good shot stopper and is a physically imposing keeper. He’s a good age too, and has time on his side.” Tomlinson started the season in fantastic form keeping five clean sheets in the first 10 games and was linked with moves away from the club because of his good form.
Tommo PV
After playing 81 times over two seasons he decided once again to not sign a new contract with Port Vale and joined Burton Albion. He kept a clean sheet on his debut in a 1-0 win over Rochdale. Unfortunately he suffered a knee injury that kept him out for several months and this was the start of his injury problems that would eventually lead to his retirement.
Tommo Burton
The final word can go to his last manager Gary Rowett who when saying this probably didn’t expect him to go on to be a wrestler. “His retirement is naturally sad news, however I have no doubt that he will succeed in whatever he decides to do next and we wish him all the very best.”