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Ward is closing in on director of football role as Baker leaves Plymouth Argyle

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

John Ward

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A new chief executive is on the cards at Plymouth Argyle as the npower League Two club close in on appointing John Ward as director of football.

It continues to be a period of change behind the scenes at Home Park, after the team's disappointing start to the season. Argyle announced yesterday that Martin Baker, who had been their acting chief executive since January, had left to "pursue other interests".

The club also confirmed they were in contract talks with their chosen candidate to take over as director of football. They did not reveal who that was, but it is believed to be 61-year-old Ward, who was the manager of Colchester United until September.

The appointment is expected to be announced before the Devon derby against Exeter City at St James' Park on Saturday, while Argyle's board of directors are likely to start the search for a new chief executive at their next monthly meeting They will almost certainly be seeking someone with previous football experience to fill the position.

Baker initially arrived at Argyle as finance director after James Brent completed his buy-out of the club in October 2011. Baker assumed the role of acting chief executive when David Felwick, Richard Holliday and Peter Jones were appointed as directors.

Baker is also the finance director of another of Brent's companies – Devon-based surfwear company Saltrock. He had not previously worked at a football club before starting his stint at Argyle.

Argyle announced the addition of former Bristol City chief executive and chairman Colin Sexstone to their board of directors last month. Sexstone soon recommended that a director of football should be brought in to work alongside manager Carl Fletcher.

Sexstone has led that search, with input from Fletcher, and interviews were carried out last Sunday. A club statement said: "From a high-quality field of candidates, we have identified the person who best fills the necessary criteria that will take the club forward.

"We have begun the process of discussing contractual matters with our preferred candidate and hope to be able to make an announcement regarding his appointment shortly."

It was revealed last Wednesday that Ward was a leading candidate for the position of director of football. He was sacked as Colchester boss in September after a winless start to the season for the League One outfit.

Ward has vast football experience, having worked as number two to Graham Taylor when the latter was boss of Watford and Aston Villa. Ward later had spells as manager of York City, Bristol Rovers, Bristol City, Cheltenham Town and Carlisle United.

Ward was also assistant boss at Wolverhampton Wanderers to Colin Lee and Dave Jones, as well as having a short spell in caretaker control in between.

The Argyle Fans' Trust has called on the Pilgrims' owner and chairman, James Brent, to issue a 'clear statement of direction' for the club.

A combination of the team's poor form, a precarious league position, falling attendances and the transfer-listing of captain Darren Purse for financial, not football, reasons, has led to the Trust doing so.

Below-budget gates at Home Park this season have resulted in Brent having to fund an income shortfall at the club out of his own pocket. The Trust has asked for confirmation the money put into the club by Argyle's owner has been "by way of gift and has not added to the club's debt".

The Trust admitted in a statement it was "concerned" at reports in the media last week that Purse had been placed on the transfer list for financial reasons. It said: "Given the club's recent history and current league position, we understand the anxiety felt by many of our members, and other supporters, on hearing this news.

"The AFT has written to the club to share its members' concerns and to put certain questions to the board.

"In the past, James Brent has been very open with supporters and, in light of recent events, we hope that he will continue to be so by addressing their concerns and issuing a clear statement of direction."

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