by David Falk
I was contacted by author Matthew Horner a few years ago to share my recollections about Seattle Sounder and Tacoma Star player Peter Ward. Peter was the most valuable player in the North American Soccer League in 1982 with Seattle and helped lead that club all the way to the league final.
Ward was back in the Puget Sound area when the Tacoma Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League were drawing record indoor soccer crowds. Horner was busy building up quotes for a biography on Ward’s career, and that work has now turned into a very interesting and entertaining read in “He Shot, He Scored.”
Author Horner begins and ends his Peter Ward biography with the player’s appearance at a Brighton Hove & Albion charity match in May of 2009. Ward was and still is a legend for supporters of Brighton. Many there consider him the brightest football star ever to come from the Sussex area. The book takes us through Ward’s early life and early soccer career.
I had recently seen “The Damned United,” (highly recommended) the film about the coaching antics of Brian Clough. So picking up “He Shot…” for the first time only added another piece to that story as well. Ward spent time with Clough at Nottingham Forest.
The book is full of inserts from Ward himself:
We’d beaten Leeds — which should have made him (Brian Clough) happy —and I’d scored a goal, so I though I might get a ‘Well done Peter, or a ‘Good game, lad’ but, instead, he decided to have a go at me for celebrating my goal too much. I’d run to the Trent End when I scored and he thought I’d made a meal of it.
By this time I knew that whatever I did, even if I scored a hat-trick every game, he wouldn’t be happy with me. But what could I do apart from just get on with it?
Of couse us locals will get the biggest bang out of the story of Peter Ward’s signing with then Sounders head coach Alan Hinton and the 1982 Seattle Sounders, and his later time with the Tacoma Stars. The book has plenty to offer us in these regards.
Alan Hinton says in the book:
I was looking for a striker and at the time it seemed to me that big target men were going out of fashion. Peter was small and quick and I thought that his style would really work for us. The English game wasn’t in a good financial state and clubs were keen to loan players out, so it wasn’t hard to convince Forest to let us have Peter. I liked him a lot — he was bubbly, liked a challenge, and was a Derby boy too!
I well remember Ward’s time with the Sounders, certainly some of the best and eventually worst times in that era of the franchise. I still consider the playoff series with Fort Lauderdale that year to be the best series of matches in any Sounders club’s history.
I am quoted multiple times in the book and really enjoyed remembering those days again at Horner’s prompting. Peter Ward was joining Seattle, joining the NASL, playing in the league that had seen Pele, Beckenbauer, and Cruyff.
Ward shares much about his NASL Sounders days, including moments with players Steve Daley and Kenny Hibbitt, among others. Ward also well-remembers the 1982 playoff series against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers:
“We had to win, plain and simple. Roger Davies was back from injury and made a big difference for us, scoring two goals. We were losing 3-2. I’d scored and Roger had scored, and it had been a really exciting game with both teams going at each other. It looked like our season was over and with less than a minute to go they had the ball down near one of our corner flags. Instead of holding the ball and letting time run out, this guy crossed the ball and it went straight to our goalie, Paul Hammond. Paul launched the ball down the pitch, Ian Bridge headed it on to me, and I ran the guy who was man-marking me. I went past him on the outside and crossed from the left. Roger ran to the near post and scored with a great header to send the game into overtime.”
Ward was also around for the fateful, final 1983 Seattle Sounders season that saw dwindling attendance, poor management on and off the pitch, and the club’s eventual folding. That final season was colorful to say the least, and in the book Ward shares several anecdotes from road trips, including several hysterical scenes involving goalkeeper Joe Corrigan.
Then Ward shares this about 1983 Sounder Tony Powell:
“‘Knocker’ Powell certainly wasn’t what you’d expect from someone who had a reputation as being a football ‘hard man.’ He used to hang around with this young black man and apparently, one day his wife found them in bed together. She was quite strange too and was, how shall we say, ‘friendly’ with quite a lot of the other players…”
When the NASL folded after the 1984 season Ward joined the Cleveland Force of the MISL. Eventually his indoor prowess brough him back to northwest and to the Tacoma Stars. A chapter in the book is all about Ward’s Tacoma days.
“He Shot, He Scored” is a must-read for supporters of the Sounders or Stars of those years, or for anyone who wants to follow one example of a life across two continents, connected by the sport of football, and involving soccer in the Puget Sound region.
Today Ward and his family live in Tampa, Florida.