Danny Ward is walking a well trodden path for Rotherham strikers, but not quite with the same strut.
Ward’s two-and-a-half-year stay at New York Stadium is over after he today sealed a club-record move to Cardiff, swapping South Yorkshire for south Wales, just as Leo Fortune-West, Alan Lee and Alex Revell all have done in the last 20 years.
While the fee, believed to be around £1.6million, is certainly not to be sniffed at and significantly more than they paid for him, it is lower than the bids of £2million chairman Tony Stewart said the club rejected just five months ago, while Paul Warne said he did not think he could get a like-for-like replacement for less than £5million.
With those numbers bandied about during the January transfer window, and factoring in a 50 per cent sell-on clause for Huddersfield, on the face of it, the deal mirrors Ward’s Millers career – one that showed promise but ultimately did not fulfil maximum potential.
Ward leaves having scored 19 goals in 95 games, 12 of those last season, a record that means he won’t be remembered among the greats of the club.
Throughout those 95 appearances there were some real sit-up-and-take-notice performances where it looked like he had finally come of age and on his day he was simply unplayable. It’s just that it wasn’t always his day.
When it was, he looked every inch a £5million striker. Games against Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich particularly stand out in the memory for the way he ran the opposition defences ragged and his game, with pace, movement and no little hard work, offers so much more than just goals.
He was the shining light in a dismal season last year, particular before Christmas, which led to clubs being prepared to spend big money on him in January.
But there were ineffective performances as well, far too regular for him to ever become a heavyweight Championship performer, littered with wasteful finishing. It could also be said that the club would have had no problem recouping £5million if Ward was as prolific in front of goal as he was going down injured during a game.
For every display like his one at Portman Road, which made Ipswich enter the fray both in January and this summer, there was one like at Wolves when he missed two one-on-ones in the first 25 minutes.
It was those deficiencies which restricted him reaching the heights of his predecessors in heading to Cardiff.
Fortune-West, Lee and Revell all have their names etched in the club’s history, Ward doesn’t.
Boss Paul Warne, who had a close relationship with his striker, was still glowing with praise for Ward’s contribution to the club.
“I know he will go on to have a great career. He has done really well for us, and we thank him as a club for his contribution,” Warne said.
“He is at a good age, and Cardiff have certainly got a good pro.
“He will be sorely missed, but obviously it is a great opportunity for him to continue playing in the Championship. He goes with my thanks and blessing.
“There was lots of interest in him during the January transfer window. We told him we needed him here, and whilst some pros would sulk, he stayed dedicated to the cause.
“His commitment was there to see when he played with a broken wrist for a while as well. He gave us everything he had, and I appreciated that.”
It is no surprise he has headed to Cardiff as – barring a six-week period last season – Ward played his best football in a Millers shirt when Neil Warnock was at the helm.
Warnock inherently likes exactly the sort of player Ward is – hard-working, versatile, no frills and good in the dressing room.
He will stay in the Championship, play with better players and significantly swell his salary – it is undeniably a good move for Ward.
The Millers lose a solid Championship player, who gave his all for the side, but never really delivered on a consistent basis.
Perhaps, having signed him for a nominal fee and now selling him on for over a seven-figure amount, the deal lived up to expectations more than Ward did after all.