Experienced, versatile and hard working, Mitch Ward had been one of Howard Kendall’s most reliable performers during the manager’s spell in charge of Sheffield United. A right-sided midfielder, who could also play at full back, wing back and even in central midfielder, he was renowned for whipping in crosses from the flank, and also for his fiercely struck penalties.
In October 1997, Kendall brought him to Goodison along with Carl Tiler in a part-exchange deal that saw the popular Graham Stuart leave for Bramall Lane, plus £500,000. He arrived at Goodison at a dire time, and his debut at Chelsea was inauspicious – giving away the first of two late penalties, which sealed a 2-0 defeat and Everton’s place at the foot of the Premiership table.
Ward played just a handful of games before being struck down by a succession of ankle injuries that ruled him out of much of the remainder of the 1997/98 season. By the time he returned to fitness, Kendall was gone and his replacement Walter Smith seldom used him, although he did once name him captain in a League Cup tie against Oxford United in September 1999. At the end of the 1999/2000 season, Ward joined Barnsley for £200,000, a more fitting level, perhaps, for an honest trier.