We were deeply upset to hear the news that Paul Ware has passed away at the age of just 42. Warey still remains one of our favourite Stoke City players and this article, which appeared in Issue 103 of the fanzine, paid tribute to him after he left our club for Stockport County in September 1994.
HOW CAN IT BE that once again Stoke City have made the criminal mistake of losing the services of a player that cost the club nothing and yet stood to give them so much?
I refer of course to the departure of Paul Ware who signed recently for Stockport County, having found himself effectively frozen out of the first team picture at the Victoria Ground for over twelve months.
At only 24 years of age Paul Ware should have been poised for a full and exciting career with Stoke, having shown excellent promise during the near six years that he has been in the first team picture. However, we have now, with barely the blink of an eye, said a quiet goodbye to one of the most committed and passionate players to have pulled on a Stoke City shirt during the last few years.
For my money the entire blame for Paul Ware’s regrettable decision to leave Stoke has to be laid firmly at the feet of Joe Jordan. While Joe resorted to playing right-backs in midfield (and taking seemingly any free transfer that was going) to cover the gaping holes in the middle of our team he continued to ignore a genuine midfielder already at the club, and one who had never let the side down whenever he had been played.
Joe arrived at the club announcing that every player would be given the chance to prove themselves, but Paul Ware received only one game under Joe – the 2-6 thrashing at Luton for which he was obviously made one of the scapegoats.
Other than that appearance it was reserve team football for Warey during the last year and recent reports say that he had even been relegated to training with the youth team during the week! How can things ever have reached such a situation for one of, if not the only, brightest young prospects at Stoke for many years?
It is true that prior to Joe’s arrival Lou Macari had also dropped Paul Ware from the starting line-up but Lou was gambling on experience to help us get a steady foothold in Division One, hence his decision to bring in midfielders Micky Gynn and Toddy Orlygsson on free transfers. Lou knew what Paul Ware could do and that he was still a young player. I feel sure that Warey would have been a regular back in the starting line-up by now if Lou had not left for Celtic.
My only conclusion about Paul Ware’s demise from the squad picture under Joe Jordan is that either the new manager just didn’t like him or that he may have spoken out of turn. What other reasons could there be?
Looking back on his time at Stoke City I can only really recall good memories of Paul Ware. Every time I think of him I remember the great goal at Peterborough that took us to Wembley, or the sight of a young man tearing about in midfield challenging for every ball as though his very existence depended upon it.
To me Paul Ware typified everything that is good in a football player. Though originally from Congleton in Cheshire (and rumour has it, a Manchester City supporter as a boy) Warey is your archetypal local boy for whom playing for his side meant giving everything he had to give, and playing with a heart, passion and fervour that showed the outcome of the game really did matter to him.
One of my most abiding memories of Warey is of him trudging off the pitch at Telford, after our shock FA Cup exit in 1991, and being the only player who really looked devastated at the embarrassment of the result. I made a point of mentioning this in the match report of that game which appeared in Oatcake 55 and to my mind it summed up perfectly the kind of attitude that he took with him into each game he played for Stoke City.
I know he didn’t make his debut in this match but my earliest memory of Warey came in the never-to-be-forgotten Christmas clash against Manchester City at the Victoria Ground in the ’88-’89 season. The Maine Road club arrived with 12,000 fancy-dressed fans in tow and were fancying their chances of gaining three points. Paul Ware, just 18 years old at the time, was brought into the side by Mick Mills at right-back and gave a memorable performance, as he put the T well and truly into both Tenacious’ and Tackling’. If I remember correctly he was substituted late in that match, probably to avoid being senf-off!
After that game he steadily became a regular member of the first team squad, particularly under Alan Ball who admired his kind of no-nonsense approach to football, though at only 20 years old he had to survive the boo-boys, who decided to make him the latest in a long line of young local players they love to hurl abuse at.
He answered his critics in the only way he knew how, by playing even harder and scoring goals at vital times for the club. In no time he had won over most, if not all, of his doubters and he steadily became a favourite with the supporters.
When Lou Macari arrived at the club he found in Paul Ware just the type of player that best suited his “up and at ’em” style of football. Warey would chase every ball that came within twenty yards of him, put his head into places where others would think twice about sticking their feet and generally give nothing less than 100% total effort for the cause. In the 1991-92 season he particularly impressed in the match at West Brom when his powerful running from midfield had the attendant press reporters (and the West Brom manager, Bobby Gould) predicting big things for a player who was still only 21.
Though not as prolific as say Steve Foley when it came to getting goals, Warey nevertheless chipped in with some vital strikes for The Potters. He scored a dramatic equaliser in the promotion battle against Birmingham at the Victoria Ground, and then later set up the late winner for Bertie by bravely charging down an attempted clearance from a Blues defender. His thumping 25-yard strike at Reading pulled us back to 3-3 while the home fans were still singing “you’re not singing anymore” to us, having only just taken the lead themselves.
As we mentioned earlier though his most memorable moment in a Stoke shirt must have been when he scored that stunning free-kick at Peterborough United in the Autoglass Area Final which secured us our place at Wembley. After that game, the Sky TV commentators were also predicting a big future for such a prodigious young talent.
Tragedy struck for Warey though with an injury that meant he had to sit out the Autoglass Final, missing out on what should have been the greatest moment of his career to date. Nobody said that football was ever meant to be fair, but Warey didn’t bemoan his terrible bad luck and instead got himself fit again to play a full and telling part in the following year’s Championship season.
Warey was a versatile player for Stoke and could play in either defence or midfield. He showed in one match though that he could even turn his hand to an out and out striker’s role. As Stoke toiled in vain against a struggling Huddersfield at the Victoria Ground Lou threw Warey off the substitutes bench and into the centre-forward’s position. Within minutes of that bold move he had the ground in ecstasy with two headed goals to put us on the road to a crucial three points. Once again Paul Ware had been asked to do a job by a Stoke manager and he had gone out and done it with no questions asked. I’m sure that if you’d asked him to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey he would have played well enough to slake a daim for a regular place in that position!
If there was a fault you could pick with Paul Ware it was that he often played with his heart and not his head. The worst example of this came in the criminal Autoglass home defeat to Port Vale when he and Carl Beeston (both local lads!) got a bit too carried away with their tackling as they saw Stoke slipping to a disastrous defeat.
That said though, young Warey got his act together for the vital league dash at Vale Park a few weeks later and rt was his tireless and unstinting work from midfield which played a significant part in helping to set up a night of glory for Stoke City.
In football these days players like Paul Ware are a rare commodity. He was an energetic and willing workhorse for The Potters, never shirking any job that a manager might put his way, always giving everything he had. He may not have been the most elegant player, and indeed his inclusion in the team this and last season would not have been the instant answer to all of our problems, but Paul Ware was a vital and much needed member of our club set up.
I can’t speak for other Stoke supporters but for myself the departure of Paul Ware to Stockport County is little short of a tragedy. Seeing that he had no future at Stoke under Jordan, Warey agreed to join Danny Bergara at Edgeley Park just one day before Jordan himself was given the push. However, he refused to change his mind over his decision as he had already given his word to the Stockport manager. I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything else from somebody as honest as he is.
Farewell Warey, I hope everything works out for you at Stockport and I hope you realise that there are people at Stoke who appreciate everything you did for our club. Thanks!