With the current striker injury crisis, how Brighton & Hove Albion could do with a young Peter Ward in their side. However, in October 1979, he began to experience a dip in form that led to Mullery dispensing with his services for the clash with Sheffield United at the start of the following month. As John Vinicombe wrote in ‘Up, Up and Away’:
What Albion badly needed was an away win, and it came at Bramall Lane. After the West Ham defeat, Mullery was faced with a fairly basic problem among managers. Quite simply, his star player, Peter Ward, had ceased to glitter. But the easy get-out of dropping him was not the complete answer. For instance, Mullery was concerned with not just improving the side, but re-motivating a young man with the ability to swing a match on his own.
In and out of the Albion side, Peter Ward did not hit a single League goal for the Albion from October to January. Nevertheless, he had staunch support from some Seagulls fans as letters to the Evening Argus illustrate. Take this one by Vincent Neal, of Erroll Road, Hove:
I have been an Albion supporter for 24 years and have rarely missed a game. One thing seems patently obvious to me.
Albion are foolishly wasting the enormous potential of one of their greatest assets – Peter Ward.
He reads the game like a master, moves into open spaces intelligently, has good close control and pace, but rarely receives the service that only a Liam Brady or Trevor Brooking could provide.
On countless occasions I have noted his frustration and desparing gestures towards his team mates when failure to play the early ball or to read his quicksilver mind has resulted in wasted opportunities.
Ward is a gifted player and in my opinion his talents can only properly be complemented by players of equal status.
Currently he is on the fringe of the first team and appears to be trying too hard to prove himself every time he makes a short appearance.
I feel, also, that he needs to be less individualistic and self-centred and concentrate on combining with his colleagues.
My suggestion is for him to play deeper – concentrating on making runs from behind and/or providing accurate passes for Malcolm Poskett, Maybank and Peter Saver to capitalise on.
I guarantee that our recent drop in gate attendances would receive the necessary boost if Ward were an ever present, as even I have been tempted to forego some matches when he has not even been on the substitutes bench.
J Pearce, of Portland Place, Brighton, was equally unequivocal about what he wanted:
When is Ward going to get a fair crack of the whip? Alan Mullery states that it is no use playing him when the grounds are too hard or too soft. That means he is reduced to part-time level. Brighton should either play him regularly or sell him. He’s too good a player to be messed about.