Bradford City's on-loan Rotherham United forward David Ball says quest for Championship football was the reason for his Fleetwood Town exit

David Ball in action for Fleetwood
David Ball in action for Fleetwood
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It was a heart-wrenching decision for David Ball to leave Highbury in the summer of 2017 but the ex-Fleetwood Town hero explained why he will celebrate if he nets for his relegation-battling Bradford City side.

Ball, 29, arrived at Fleetwood in 2012, a move funded by that record £1m Leicester City fee for Jamie Vardy.

The forward would go on to score 41 goals in 179 league appearances for Town under Micky Mellon, Graham Alexander, Steven Pressley and Uwe Rosler.

The attacker helped Town to clinch promotion from League Two in 2014 and earned a FIFA Puskas Award (goal of the year) nomination for his delightful chip in the 1-1 draw with Preston in March 2015.

Ball’s goals still live in the memory for many Town fans and he says his exit was due to his quest to play Championship football.

The Manchester City youth product featured in the second tier in a spell with Peterborough United in 2011-12 before joining Town.

And after his exit in 2017 he went on to achieve that with Rotherham United, who were promoted from League One last term.

Ball started the season in Paul Warne’s starting line-up at the Millers. But after a 5-1 opening-day defeat to Brentford, Ball says Warne told him he would not get regular game-time due to his desire not to play with two up front.

At 29, the versatile attacker says he had multiple loan options but joined the Bradford side that dumped Town out of the play-offs in his final term there because of the Bantams’ northern location and fanbase, as well as the opportunity to show case his talents.

Ball explained what he has been up to since his exit.

He said : “I got promoted to the Championship, which was fantastic. It is what I wanted to do.

“It came to the start of the season and I played a few games, but the manager did not want to go with two up top.

“That obviously affected me and he said my chances would be limited to being on the bench.

“I’m 29 now and I did not see that as something I wanted to do.

“I had a few good options to go out on loan and I saw Bradford as the perfect option to stay up north with a real big club. The fanbase and everything is massive.

“With playing them in the play-offs against Fleetwood, I saw it as a good place to showcase what I can do and I feel I have done that.”

That fourth-placed finish under Rosler in 2016-17 and the League Two play-off final win which preceded it are highlights for Ball, who still has a place in his heart for Fleetwood Town.

Speaking of his memories he said: “I think it was Wembley and coming into League One because that is where I feel the club should be.

“The Puskas goal was great on a personal level and nearly getting to the Championship was a fantastic achievement for 2016/17.

“Personally, just knowing that I hold a few records is great. Fleetwood was a huge part of my career.

“The club is part of my family in as much as I loved every minute of it there. I look out for their score at 5pm on a Saturday.”

Given Bradford’s precarious position in the relegation spots, a match-winning goal against 10th-placed Town would be vital to their hopes of remaining in League One.

And would he celebrate if he does add to his six-goal tally?

Ball replied: “Yes. I think as a footballer you have to.

“But it would not be an over-celebration and it would not be disrespectful to the Fleetwood fans.”

Ball will be facing a much- changed Town outfit to the one he left in 2017.

Gone is boss Rosler and only six of the squad from 2016-17 are in contention for Saturday’s Valley Parade match.

Keeper Alex Cairns is on track to make his 100th appearance, while Ash Eastham, Wes Burns, Ash Hunter, Ashley Nadesan and Jack Sowerby could also feature against the Bantams.

But despite the changes, Ball sees a lot of similarities with the crop of 2016-17 and he is backing Town to battle at the top end of the table.

He said: “The club has had a big turnover. I think the club went into a big change after 2016-17.

“It has taken its time to get to a steady place, but now I think the people in charge and the staff have a structure in place to have a go again and to get into the play-offs.

“Obviously they have got Joey Barton in and a really good staff around them.

“(Coaches) Youl Mawene, Baz (Nicholson) and Dave (Lucas) are still there.

“They have added Steve Eyre, who I played under in my youth career. He is a great coach.

“I think they have recruited really well and they have got a good mix of youth and experience.

“It’s a bit like our side in that good season when we got into the play-offs.

“It is looking like either this year or next year that they can do something.