Old pals want to have last laugh

Dan Ward, right, spent six seasons playing for Edinburgh University
Dan Ward, right, spent six seasons playing for Edinburgh University
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Spartans player Dan aims to Ward off student gigs

Spartans’ Ferrari Packaging Lowland League game against Edinburgh University will see several familiar faces up against each other at Ainslie Park tomorrow, but for Dan Ward, the experience promises to be especially unusual.

The midfielder made the switch from East Peffermill to north Edinburgh in the summer. After a long association with The Students, Ward admitted that lining up against his old club will take some getting used to.

“It’ll be a bit strange,” he said. “I was with Edinburgh Uni for six years so it’ll be weird to pull on the opposite strip this time. I’m looking forward to it – it was a good six years but it’ll be good to play them. I’d like to thank everyone at Edinburgh Uni who helped me during my time there as well.

“I just felt in the summer was a good time to move on. I’d been there six years and then the offer came from Spartans and it felt right for me. Dougie [Samuel] had spoken to Dorian [Ogunro, Uni head coach] before actually speaking to me at all, then Dorian told me that Sammy was interested. It went through all the proper paths – there was no tapping up!”

There has long been close ties between Spartans and Edinburgh Uni, given the Ainslie Park club was established in 1951 by ex Uni players. Dougie Samuel spent nine seasons as Uni boss, while Spartans captain Ally MacKinnon is the son of Edinburgh Uni AFC chairman Stewart. Along with other ex-Uni team-mates, Ward revealed that sense of familiarity made the move and subsequent settling in period easier.

“Some of the boys have made the transfer here before,” said the Geordie. “Guys like Ally MacKinnon, Danny Main, Paul Thompson and Jack Beesley are all ex-Uni so I knew them and they’d enjoyed playing here and the challenge that brought.

“The idea was to challenge for the league – it still is, even though we’ve had a bit of a shaky start. We still think we can win things and that’s what I’d like to do here. Everyone’s been great. I think this is a transition point for a lot of players so that’s made it feel a bit easier. Everyone’s been very social and very helpful so it’s been quite easy to slot in.”

Ward also revealed there is a different dynamic within the Spartans squad and that, given the nature of University football, he now finds himself in a dressing-room with more recognised ‘senior’ players.

“I’ve come from a team where maybe I’ve been there the longest and probably one of the oldest in the team,” said the 24-year-old. “Now I’m one of the youngest players so it is a change, but it just means I have more players to learn off so hopefully that’ll be better for me. I don’t think that means there’s less pressure on me though – the main pressure on me, I put on myself. I just want to play well irrespective of other people and concentrate on my own performance.”

Tomorrow’s opponents have won three on the bounce, and Ward knows only too well what Spartans will be up against. “It’ll be a good game,” he said. “I’ve had a few emails from the Uni lads talking about sharpening studs! I don’t think they realise it’s an artificial pitch so they’ll be wearing mouldies! Apart from myself they’ve kept pretty much the same squad and will be adding more players. It’ll be a good fight.”