FORMER York City manager John Ward believes Bristol Rovers would still be a Football League club if on-loan Bootham Crescent signing Ryan Brunt had not missed the final six months of last season.

Brunt joined the Minstermen for a month this week having fallen out of favour at the Memorial Stadium, where knee problems meant he could only look on as Rovers tumbled into the Conference at the end of 2013/14.

Ex-Minstermen chief Ward, meanwhile, was moved upstairs from the dugout to a director of football role back in late March before being relieved of his duties completely when the Pirates were relegated.

During the previous campaign, though, Brunt had been a key performer as Ward masterminded a revival in Rovers' fortunes from a place at the foot of the table, come Christmas, to a mid-table finish by the end of the season.

Once the ex-Stoke City reserve took residence in the Rovers' treatment room, however, the club's fortunes nosedived with the likes of ex-Minsterman Chris Beardsley, David Clarkson, Ellis Harrison, Matt Harrold and Kaid Mohamed unable to fill his boots.

Ward, who bossed City from 1991 to 1993, said: "If Ryan had been available, I don't think we would have gone down last season.

"I've no doubt about that because we tried to get other players in to do what he did for the team and they couldn't. He had also played a major part in the club going from the relegation places to 14th by the end of the previous season."

Lincoln-born Ward reckons, meanwhile, that Brunt will benefit from the guidance of his new team's assistant manager SteveTorpey, believing the 21-year-old forward is a near replica of the player he managed for a year-and-a-half at Bristol City in the last 1990s.

"Ryan's an old-fashioned centre forward, who's 6ft 2in," Ward pointed out. "Steve rang me about a couple of players because York are looking around and doing their homework, which you have to do and, when he asked about Ryan, I said he plays just like you used to do.

"He's a number nine, who brings people into play and has an eye for goal. He did very well for me in my first season at Bristol Rovers and, once he got a few injuries, we missed him.

"From what I've heard, he came back very well in pre-season but Bristol have had a good spell without him in the team.

"They've allowed him to go on loan and I think somebody like Steve will be able to work well with him. It should be a good move for both parties."

Ward added that nobody should be fooled by Brunt's modest goal record.

The Birmingham-born attacker has not netted in any of his last 25 senior outings and only has nine goals to his name from 78 competitive appearances.

But Ward insists that such figures do not paint the whole picture, reasoning: "What doesn't get put on record is how many people he brings into play and how well he holds up the ball.

"Football is very basic in its statistics. I hear talk of teams completing 450 passes and losing 3-0, so you can get bogged down with all that a bit.

"What you want are effective footballers and Ryan is an effective centre-forward, who is a team player. Steve Torpey didn't score lots of goals, but he didn't finish on many losing sides in his career either.

"Ryan also scored twice for us against Port Vale who were in the top four at the time, which showed his true colours. He can out-think opponents, get the ball, move it to somebody else and then get on the end of a cross at the far post."

Ward does feel, however, that the Bootham Crescent faithful might need to display a degree of patience before seeing the best of Brunt, explaining: "He's not played too many League matches, as Steve and Nigel both know, so it might take a game or two for him to get up to full speed, but he's a reliable person who looks after himself."

Ex-Minstermen, Bristol Rovers, Bristol City, Wolves, Cheltenham, Carlisle and Colchester chief Ward, meanwhile, has announced his retirement from management, following a 23-year career, but would still like to return to the game in a different capacity.

"I don't want to manage any more," he said. "I've done that and I think it's a younger man's game, but I would like to work as a coach or director of football.

"The director of football position is a strange one in our country, because people don't seem to get the concept. Some young managers might think you are after their job, but somebody like Lennie Lawrence has done it at Bristol Rovers, Crystal Palace and Bolton now.

"I think young managers can be lost to the game very quickly if they don't do well straight away and that link between them and the board is a useful one. It can also help out in terms of getting players in through contacts that the director of football might have in the game.

"There has to be trust for it to work and that seems the most awkward hurdle in this country but the role does appeal to me."


Max impact for York fan

YORK City fan Max Soothill presented Michael Coulson and Anthony Straker with their August Player of the Month awards and then saw his team lose for the first time.

Five-year-old Max, who was three when he first watched the Minstermen during a 1-1 home draw with Accrington in April 2013, had gone 11 matches without witnessing a defeat for Nigel Worthington’s men but that run came to an end during last month’s 3-2 reverse against Southend.

Max is pictured with his dad - exiled City fan Simon.

The pair make a 380-mile round trip from St Albans for weekend fixtures at Bootham Crescent and also attend southern-based away matches.

Russell Penn has won The Press Player of the Month award for September.

The City skipper earned the accolade after receiving one point as our third-highest rated player during last

weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Dagenham and winning our online man-of-the-match poll.

That latter honour saw Penn pick up two more bonus points towards the standings, meaning he finished one ahead of out-of-favour centre-back John McCombe.

The other Press points from Victoria Road went to our man-of-the-match Ryan Jarvis (three) and second-highest rated player Dave Winfield (two).

To be in with a chance of presenting The Press Player of the Month for October with a framed photograph at Bootham Crescent, vote for your man of the match from today’s game at home to Portsmouth by visiting or by tweeting @daveflettpress

The Press Player of the Year standings: McCombe 10, Penn 10, Coulson 7, Lowe 7, Straker 7, McCoy 6, Summerfield 6, Ingham 5, Ilesanmi 4, Fletcher 3, Jarvis 3, Hyde 2, Winfield 2.

The Press Player of the Month for September final standings: Penn 8, McCombe 7, Fletcher 5, Ingham 5, Hyde 4, Lowe 4, Ilesanmi 3, Jarvis 3, McCoy 3, Coulson 2, Summerfield 2, Winfield 2.

Goals: Fletcher 3, Hyde 2, Lowe 2, Coulson 1, Penn 1, Winfield 1.

Assists: McCoy 3, Coulson 2, Meikle 2, Hyde 1, Straker 1, Summerfield 1.

Bad boys: Hyde, Penn both two yellow; Lowe, McCoy, Platt, Straker all one yellow.