At the end of the season, Julian Ward will graduate to Liverpool’s Holy Trinity: the men ultimately responsible for the club’s on-pitch success and football operations.
In taking over from Michael Edwards as sporting director, he joins manager Jürgen Klopp and Fenway Sports Group president Mike Gordon in making decisions that drive the club: from recruitment to infrastructure and tactical evolution.
Ward, well-known and liked in transfer circles having operated across Europe and South America, has been primed for this role for over a year as Liverpool have ensured a thorough and well-managed transition period in preparation for Edwards’ departure.
The Merseysiders’ decision to look internally is sensible given the solid structure in place. Fenway Sports Group have opted to invest in continuity and a process they trust.
Gordon and Klopp pushed for Ward’s promotion, endorsed by the rest of the core operations team: Ian Graham, Dave Fallows, Barry Hunter, and David Woodfine, who are all locked in at the club.
Bringing in an external candidate would risk upsetting a successful, close-knit set-up and losing some of the brains trust.
It could have led to a case of scrapping the script and starting from scratch, which no major decision-maker was in favour of.
But who exactly is the man tasked with replacing one of the most esteemed sporting directors in the game?
Ward, a former player for Morecambe, has extensive experience throughout the sport. Having studied Sports Science at John Moores University, he became a performance analyst for the Football Association in 2001 before joining the industry-changing ProZone a year later.
A fluent Portuguese speaker, he lived in Lisbon where he headed up analysis and technical scouting for Portugal’s Football Federation.
Manchester City poached him to be their South American scouting strategist; mining their key region of talent identification between 2010 and 2012.
Liverpool then swooped, putting Ward in charge of scouting in Spain and Portugal. In 2015, he become head of loan pathways and football partnerships where he earned the respect of the likes of Rangers manager Steven Gerard – set for Aston Villa – whom he had to regularly liaise with.
With Edwards stalling on committing to a new contract, Liverpool identified the 40-year-old as the perfect option as an understudy and to ultimately take over.
Ward was made assistant sporting director, owing to his connections in the game, quality of work across his roles, and wide panorama of football operations.
Liverpool are concrete in their belief that he has earned this elevation and will continue the culture of excellence that Edwards spearheaded.
A gradual, era-shaping rebuilding job awaits Ward when he steps into the sporting director sphere next summer. Like his predecessor, he plans to do his talking in the role rather than publicly.