"John played a major part in resurrecting my career after my cruciate injury. I was out for a year, but he gave me a chance at 32 to get back into the game. A lot of people thought that might have been it for my career, but I have a lot of respect for the man for taking a chance on me.
"John did a lot, not only for me, but for the whole football club in the four years he was here. He took us into League One and built a great foundation for Keith Downing to take it on. I regard him as a close friend, which I don't think too many players can say about a former manager.
"The fans should give him a great reception for what he did here and if any of them boo him, it's out of order because he is well-respected throughout the game and nobody has a bad word to say about him.
"It was great to be back in action at Hartlepool and it was a very strong performance from all the lads. Gilly (Steven Gillespie) scored both goals, but everyone contributed and we need to take that into tonight's game against Carlisle and keep pushing on. I usually speak to John twice weekly, but there have been no calls this week and it's all about us getting three points tonight."
Meanwhile injured Robins skipper John Finnigan commented on tonight :
"John Ward will be back at Whaddon Road tonight with Carlisle United and it will be good to see him. I hope he gets the positive reception he deserves because throughout football he is very highly respected. I think I played some of the best football of my career under John, particularly in his last two years here.
"Hopefully we can take the spoils from the game and then it will be good to have a chat with him and ask him how he is. The main concern is getting three points, but it will be difficult as they are third and we are in the bottom four.
"I am sure John will be telling everyone we are the favourites having won our last three games without conceding, but I don't think we can lose sight of the difference between the two teams in the table. We will start as underdogs, but Carlisle will be expecting a tough night."
While on-loan Bristol City midfielder Alex Russell said :
"I think that John obviously did a great job at Cheltenham and probably everyone at Cheltenham will think it will be nice to see him back at the ground. For the lads obviously playing at the moment they want to show him at the end of the day what Cheltenham are doing now and get a result, shake his hand and say hello but send him packing with no points."