Monday, 31 January 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 1998-99 to 2000-01 (only appeared in first season)
Appearances : 1
Goals : 0
Graham, and his father Keith (see post 76) comprise the only father - and - son duo to feature in this story and he’s also the first player we’ve come to who is still in his twenties at the time of writing. He was on the bench for one or two of Barrow’s last games but his only League appearance was in the final game of 1998-99, a 1-1 draw at Brighton/Gillingham under David Hamilton’s stewardship. Graham did OK, helped by the fact that the whole team played with an all-too-obvious joie de vivre as a result of being allowed to play something resembling attacking football. It was a final indictment of Barrow that we could easily cope with 4-4-2 despite having a novice centre half (his mate Andy Farrell stayed on the bench).
Graham’s only other senior appearance was the following season’s FA Cup First Round tie at Burton where again he was OK in a 0-0 draw. He wasn’t called on again amid rumours that his weight was getting out of control and it must be doubtful that he would have been on the books for three years had his father not been employed at the club.
He was let go in 2001 and subsequently played for Chorley.
Graham completes the 1998-99 season.
Sunday, 30 January 2011
Position : Midfield
Played : 1998-99 (initially on loan from Cardiff) to 1999-2000 ( didn't appear in latter season )
Appearances : 12
Goals : 1
Gareth was signed initially on loan (though I suspect that was to test his fitness) from Cardiff and then given a two and a half year contract. He began as a junior with Leeds but even then had a reputation as a hothead and Howard Wilkinson decided to let him go. He signed for Hull and was promptly red carded on his debut in 1991. He went on to make 30 appearances for them but fell badly out of favour and was released in the summer of 1993 and dropped into non-league with Bishop Auckland his home town club. Eighteen months later he got another chance in the Football League with Hereford and did well enough to secure an £80,000 move to Cardiff in January 1997. Their fans seem to have been divided in much the same way we were about Shaun Reid. Some admired his 110% commitment and christened him "Mad Dog" ; others thought he was a dog of a player. There was apparently one incident when he was on the receiving end of a tackle so hard it broke his shin pad. Gareth just threw it off the pitch ,carried on and exacted retribution later in the game. In his 36th game in February 1998 he injured his cruciate ligaments and never played for them again.
Gareth actually had a decent debut away at Scunthorpe in February 1999 matching their muscle in midfield. I remember one guy, who was standing at the front when Gareth clattered one of their players into the hoardings early on , telling me he'd heard Gareth say "And that's just for starters !" He undoubtedly contributed to what was a rare away win with Dave Bayliss's late goal. That was memorable because one of my match mates was had brought an annoying young tagalong from his office who became surely the only Bury fan ever to be thrown out of a ground for celebrating a Rochdale goal. Gareth went on to be booked in each of his first four games, nearly starting a riot both during and after the game against Wigan in the AWS after an awful tackle.
It was his second game away at Halifax in the AWS that showed up his flaws. For 90 minutes he ran around like a headless chicken, demanding the ball seemingly for the purpose of seeing how quickly he could give it back to the opposition. A friend who hadn't been at Scunthorpe came up to us and asked "Who's that number 7 ? He's terrible ! " And then he got that contract - what were the Board thinking of sanctioning that ? Surely they weren't preparing to give Barrow another season ? Gareth just got worse each game he played - the ones I saw anyway; I missed his goal at Cambridge.
The incoming Steve Parkin wrote him off at once and sent him on loan to Scarborough at the beginning of September 1999 and a permanent move was negotiated in December which no doubt cost us a fair wad.
Gareth put in a long stint at Scarborough making 140 appearances over four seasons in the Conference. He then had a season with Forest Green before switching to Leigh RMI for their one , dismal Conference season in 2004-05, In 2006 he returned to Yorkshire as player-coach of Wakefield. In 2008 he became assistant-manager of Osssett Town though he retired as a player.
Gareth brings the Graham Barrow story to a close. He was dismissed with one game still to play in May 1999. There was a great story ( I don't know if it's true ) that one of his fiercest crirtics had an answering machine message that ran "Mark is out AND SO IS BARROW !!! " I didn't celebrate like that ; despite joining in with all the Barrow Out chants that season I felt a surprising sadness when it actually came to pass. My wife couldn't understand it - "But you've been slagging him off all season ! " and I couldn't really explain it to her. It wasn't really sympathy for him - God knows he's earning more now at Wigan than at any earlier point in his career - more a lament for the final , irrevocable end of the dreams of May 1996 and the realisation that, given the big changes in my life since then, that sort of buzz wouldn't happen again. And of course a troubling thought, if the apparently ideal candidate had flopped so badly what exactly did the future hold for us ?
Saturday, 29 January 2011
Position : Midfield (also played at centre half)
Played : 1998-99 (on loan from Scarborough)
Appearances : 14
Goals : 1
Now we come to Graham Barrow's last two signings who were effectively the last nails in his coffin. Jason was signed on loan from Scarborough in February. He started out in Manchester United's youth team alongside Ryan Giggs ( an association which probably did him no favours) . After failing to make the grade at Old Trafford he went to Bolton in 1992 on a free and made 30 appearances over 3 seasons filling in at right back, centre half and midfield. In March 1995 Sam Allardyce signed him for Blackpool for £75,000. He had a more regular place there at centre half though the fans weren't keen on him and christened him Jason Idiot. In August 1998 he moved on to Scarborough and was playing regularly up to his surprise switch to Dale.
It was hard to understand. Why did we want another centre-half from the bottom club who had lost 5-1 in each of his last two games for them ? But of course Barrow had the answer- play him in midfield and praise him for winning one or two challenges in the middle while ignoring all the "passes" that went into touch and the hopeless through balls that rolled out for a goalkick. When the equally dire Stoker was signed to play alongside him our misery was complete. In the last 9 games we won just one and we were losing that one until Jason was taken off. In fairness, in the couple of games where he played at the back he did alright.
Thankfully Steve Parkin had no interest in making the move permanent and Jason went over to Ireland to play for Finn Harps. Unfortunately he barely lasted a fortnight there and was discarded after scoring a spectacular own goal. He disappears from the record after that apart from a 10 game spell at Hyde in 2002-03. There is a Jason Lydiate who is a handyman in Salford and I'm guessing that's him.
Position : Goalkeeper
Played : 1998-99 to 2000-01 (didn't appear in final season)
Appearances : 3
Goals : 0
Phil was signed from Atherton Laburnum Rovers as goalkeeping cover after Lance Key departed for Northwich.
His debut came almost straightaway when Neil Edwards went down with flu in January and Phil played at home to Plymouth. He conceded early on but then kept them at bay for a 1-1 draw.
He got his next chance when Neil Edwards had to come off after three minutes at Exeter a year later but the next time Edwards was absent Steve Parkin brought a loanee in instead. Phil got a couple more games in March. Phil managed to avoid any absolute howlers but he never inspired total confidence and clearly Parkin had doubts about him. In his last season he was loaned out to Scarborough then Graham Barrow signed him for Chester in February 2001.
He left after Barrow was sacked in the summer and went to Bangor City playing against us in a pre-season friendly. He spent three years there making the League Of Wales Team Of The Year in 2002 and playing in four UEFA Cup ties, in the first of which he kept a clean sheet against the Yugoslav side Sartid Smederevo. Since then it's been a case of have gloves will travel as Phil has played for - not necessarily in the right order - Prescot Cables, Stalybridge Celtic, Radcliffe Borough, Chorley, FC United, Skelmersdale and Charnock Richard. I saw him, a fair bit chunkier than in his Dale days, earlier this season playing for Runcorn Linnets at Ramsbottom but since then he has moved to Leigh Genesis where he is also a coach.
Friday, 28 January 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 1998-99 to 1999-2000
Appearances : 32
Goals : 7
Andy was signed just before Christmas 1998 after it had become clear that Mark Leonard’s injury was career-ending. Andy began his career at Rotherham but switched to Chesterfield in 1988 for £500 and played there for over a decade (with a brief loan spell at Exeter in 1992) . Despite his formidable build Andy was frequently injured and missed as many games as he played but was still a big favourite at Saltergate. The highlight of his career was the FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough in 1997 when he scored one and won a penalty in the 3-3 draw. That was actually one of his last games for them as he struggled to recover from three operations on his knee. He was retained on monthly terms but left to sign for us with their blessing.
Obviously he was a risky signing and he looked anything but match fit in his first games. I must admit I wasn’t enthused by his arrival as I’d always seen him as a clumsy battering ram but as his fitness improved you started to see that he could be a useful player. At 6’5 and 15 stone “Bruno” was always a threatening presence in the box but was nimbler-footed than you’d expect and most of his goals were scored with his feet. He didn’t give the ball away much and was a very useful defender at corners. He scored a respectable 7 goals in 24 appearances to finish as joint top scorer. He was responsible for our last two wins that wretched season, first at home to Southend when he flicked in the winner with his back to goal (I think to date that’s my wife’s last game at Spotland) and then he scored a second half hat trick to turn the match around against Chester after injuries had forced Barrow to alter his ridiculous formation.
Andy started the next season in the side but was soon edged out by Clive Platt and on loan at Scarborough by the middle of September. He did OK there scoring twice in 10 appearances.He returned to us in the new year and made three substitute appearances while Graham Lancashire was out injured, bowing out after the 4-1 defeat at Darlington in March 2000.
On his release he went straight into the Football In The Community role at Chesterfield (where he remains today) playing for a short while at Hucknall Town.
Thursday, 27 January 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 1998-99 (initially on loan from Preston) to 1999-2000
Appearances : 38
Goals : 7
Michael was the second striker signed on loan in October 1998, this time from Preston North End. He started out at Blackburn but was released without making his debut and joined Preston in August 1996. He scored his first goal in dramatic circumstances sliding home an Ian Bryson cross for a last minute equaliser against Tottenham in the League Cup in only his third game. He went on to score 5 goals in 36 appearances (although two-thirds of them were as a substitute). With first-team opportunities becoming more limited in 1998 he went on loan, first to Macclesfield (3 games , 1 goal) and then to us.
At first Michael played second fiddle to De Souza starting his first two games on the bench but he made a big impact when he came on in the second half at Chester. We were 1-0 down and going nowhere when Ian Bryson sent an optimistic cross to the far side of the area. Michael stole in from nowhere and sent a superb looping header into the top corner , probably the best headed goal I’ve witnessed and so out of step with what we’d just been watching that there was more shock than celebration at the Dale end. Excluding the Cup games that was the start of a 5 game unbeaten run during which Michael scored twice more including the winner at Hartlepool when he was still suffering from flu.
He had given the team the shot in the arm it needed , the fans loved his committed style and making his move permanent was a no-brainer. Despite being relatively short and baby-faced he was a very aggressive, bordering-on-dirty striker who didn’t mind leaving his foot in and seemed to get away with it. He also scored more than his fair share of headers getting two in the Sky-televised 3-0 victory over Hull. Those were his last goals for a couple of months because Barrow then completely lost the plot and started playing two numpties (who we’ll come to shortly) in midfield and the strikers were completely starved of service. Michael finished joint leading scorer on 7 and his last action of the season was trying to remove Neil Edwards’s undies after the final game at Brighton/Gillingham.
The following season it just didn’t happen for him. Steve Parkin gave him plenty of chances but he failed to score and started trying too hard , leading to accusations of being greedy. In January 2000 he went on loan to Northwich but that didn’t work out with him failing to score and the team to win in 5 games. Michael returned to first team action for the Auto-Windscreen Northern Final first leg against Stoke in March when he came off the bench to score his first goal for nearly a year. He started the next game but was pulled off at half time and after a handful of sporadic appearances as sub his Dale career came to an end . It was very disappointing after such a bright beginning but that’s football.
Michael then re-located to Ireland where he enjoyed a successful five years with St Patrick’s Athletic, Derry City and Dublin City before returning to England in 2005 to join the Lancashire Police Force. He signed for Nelson FC and not surprisingly was a star at that level scoring 36 goals and winning promotion in 2005-06. He then moved to Barnoldswick Town his home town club and helped them move up a notch before signing for Padiham. In 2009 he quit playing regularly to concentrate on his career though he still coaches and sometimes turns out for the police side.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 1998-99 (on loan from Peterborough)
Appearances : 5
Goals : 0
With both Mark Leonard and Graham Lancashire injured in October , Graham Barrow needed some more strikers and the first to arrive was Miguel on loan from Peterborough. He was on the books of Charlton and Bristol City as a youngster but drifted into non-league without making an appearance for either. Barry Fry’s Birmingham signed him from Dagenham for £25,000 in February 1994 but he failed to score in 15 appearances plus 3 on loan at Bury. Surprisingly Wycombe paid £100, 000 for him less than a year later and he found his shooting boots with them , netting 29 goals in 83 appearances; he still holds their record for most goals in a season. Barry Fry, now at Peterborough, re-signed him for £50,000 in March 1997 but the results were disappointing with just 5 goals in 35 appearances. He started the 1998-99 season on loan at Southend but didn’t score in 2 games.
Miguel made his debut in the win at Barnet in October which I missed but apparently he was quite good. However in subsequent games he looked lazy and disinterested. His last appearance was away at Chester where he did nothing until a great run in the second half where he beat a number of players then scuffed his shot. Barrow responded by immediately substituting him to howls of derision from the Dale fans; as one said to me “he’s just started playing and he takes him off !”
We had just witnessed the end of Miguel’s League career. Three weeks later Birmingham released him to sign for Rushden & Diamonds in the Conference. He did OK there scoring 11 in 29 appearances before moving on to short spells at Boston and Farnborough. In 2002 he signed for St Albans City and played there for four years eventually becoming player-coach. He was last heard of coaching Chesham United’s Ladies team.
Monday, 24 January 2011
Position : Right back
Played : 1998-99
Appearances : 14
Goals : 1
Mark was a youngster from Liverpool who’d turned up for a trial after playing against us in a pre-season friendly at Barrow. After a handful of reserve games he was promoted to the first team at the expense of the struggling Paul Sparrow. He had an impressive debut at home to Leyton Orient in September playing his part in a 2-1 win with a superb recovery tackle in the second half. While not doing much in the opposition’s half he looked much safer than Sparrow at the back. He kept his place and two games later scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Halifax. He was unfortunately sent off away at Swansea in December , his first yellow being a case of mistaken identity. He was not immediately reinstated after serving his suspension and being on monthly terms, decided to try his luck at Rotherham instead.
He played 11 League games to the end of the season plus both legs of their play-off semi –final against Leyton Orient ( a real thriller which went to penalties after two goalless draws). He then suffered a serious injury in pre-season , didn’t play at all in 1999-2000 and had to retire from the professional game. He made a comeback in the Conference with Hereford in August 2001 before switching to Chester in March 2002. Released in the summer he went over to Brunei with some other Merseyside-based players to play for the national side managed by Mick Lyons but quickly returned after being caught in the Bali bombings though he survived uninjured.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 1998-99 to 2000-01
Appearances : 95
Goals : 12
Mark was signed on a Bosman from Rotherham in what looked like a "go on I'll have another one" purchase by the centre half -addicted Barrow. Mark came through the ranks at Burnley, making his League debut in March 1989 but never quite managing to make himself indispensable and moved to Rotherham in November 1994 after 84 appearances. He played 79 games for the Millers in three and a half seasons.
Despite the groans when he signed Mark turned out to be the best defender on the books. His debut was slightly delayed by injury but he was instantly impressive. Mark was a great stopper , at 6'1 and 14 stone he could muscle opponents off the ball without fouling them. In addition to that his distribution was pretty good and he was a potent threat in the opposition's box. It also benefitted Keith Hill's game that he didn't have to be the main stopper anymore and they became first choice centre half pairing for the next three seasons.The downside to Mark was a tendency to pick up red cards; we'd already seen that in 1993 when he was sent off along with Alex Jones for fighting.
He's also remembered for being a star in the Auto-Windscreens trophy. In 1999 he scored the golden goal to put Halifax out at The Shay. The following season he led the fightback from 0-2 down against Macclesfield scoring twice to put us level then in the next round he scored the winning penalty in a shoot-out against Hull.
Steve Parkin stunned everyone by releasing Mark and Keith Hill together in 2001. They had been the mainstays of a fine defensive record since he took over and Mark was only 30 ; all three of Parkin's subsequent centre half signings were older. I rank this decision as the biggest mistake since Sutton's release of Andy Milner and it caused problems for Parkin's three successors (exacerbated by David Hamilton's mislaying of Dave Bayliss).
Mark signed for Boston United in the Conference getting sent off on his debut but eventually making 26 appearances as they won the Conference title. He also came to our game at Mansfield and sat with the fans. He made one appearance for them back in the League then signed for Halifax, now back in the Conference, in November 2002. He stayed there till 2006 but missed the entire 2005-06 season through injury.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Position : Winger
Played : 1998-99
Appearances : 14
Goals : 2
Going back to the Accrington game mentioned in the previous post, it was also memorable for the incongruous sight of a slightly built, swarthy young man in the stand, alternating between jabbering away in Spanish on the mobile he had in one hand and taking mouthfuls from the Hollands pie he had in the other. This was Isidro , famous for being one of the "Three Amigos" brought from Spain to Wigan by chairman Dave Whelan in the summer of 1995 to the surprise of his manager Graham Barrow. Arguably it was trying to assimilate the Spaniards in the team that cost Barrow his job in the autumn. Isidro scored 16 goals in 76 games and helped Wigan win the Third Division title in 1996-97 but decided to try his luck elsewhere and went to Wolves. He only played one game for them and soon returned to Wigan. However he'd been replaced by then and only made 2 more appearances and was now a free agent.
Barrow had toyed with foreign signings before - anyone remember Johan van Berg the Dutch defender who flew over for a friendly at Ashton United in 1996 and had to be taken off at the insistence of the referee after 15 minutes of decking anyone that came near him ? Or Axoi, the giant Turkish left back, a year later ? Isidro was the first to play in a serious game - our first home match against Torquay and a dismal 0-2 defeat. A week later he scored the late tap-in winner in our first victory away at Carlisle, a game so bad we could barely celebrate.
Although Izzy was obviously a talented player , fast and skilful, the move didn't really work out . Opponents were well aware of the danger he posed and doubled up on him , the rest of the team not having the wit to exploit the space this created. And when he did wriggle free there often wasn't anyone to aim a cross at as Barrow wouldn't risk 4-4-2 despite having two quality wingers. After a defeat at Peterborough in October Barrow changed things round and dropped him He made a few more appearances mainly off the bench but it wasn't a great surprise when he decided to return to Spain in December.
He has moved around a bit since then but is still playing at the age of 38 for SD Laredo.
Position : Forward
Played : 1998-99
Appearances : 3
Goals : 0
Generally speaking , pre-season friendlies are football’s equivalent of Bill Haley and the Comets, fun at the time but quickly forgotten once the real thing arrives. One that does stay in the memory is the 7-1 thrashing of Accrington in August 1998 where, playing in a largely second-string side , a teenager called David Gray ran amok, scoring 6 goals. He was a big lad who won all his headers but he was fast on the floor as well and clearly knew where the goals were. It looked like we might have a potential superstar on the books and he was on the bench for the opening game against Plymouth.
Alas, things didn’t turn out that way. After three very brief substitute appearances in the early part of the season he was involved in an off-field incident which embarrassed the club. If I ever heard the full details I’ve forgotten them but after that the directors wanted him out and he was released in the summer.
After arsing about in a modelling competition for “Face of the Millennium” in which he reached the last 5, he signed for Northwich in December 1999 and scored 3 goals in 19 games in the Conference. He moved on at the end of the season, later playing for Rossendale United and (unsurprisingly) Accrington where he was last heard of in 2002. There is a David Gray knocking about the Vodkat League this season but I haven’t yet established that it’s the same guy.
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Position : Left back
Played : 1998-99 to 1999-2000
Appearances : 30
Goals : 0
Dean was a free transfer signing from Port Vale. He had apparently been an apprentice with us in the late 80s but didn’t make his League debut until 1993 when he signed for Port Vale from Halesowen for £5,000. Dean was there for over 5 seasons but only made 60 appearances in total, missing nearly two seasons with an ankle injury.
Dean was one of our smaller players , being only 5’7 and just over 10 stone but he was a keen tackler and very quick, being able to come across and cover behind the centre halves. He was the star of our early games becoming a crowd favourite immediately. Unfortunately, Dean’s fragile appearance wasn’t deceptive and after playing 90 minutes away at Cardiff in September he didn’t emerge from the treatment room until the end of February and then only made three isolated appearances to season’s end.
Memory’s playing tricks on me again. I’d never have said that Dean played more games for Steve Parkin than for Barrow but the stats show he played in half the games in 1999-2000 despite being replaced twice , first by loanee Damon Searle, then by Sean McAuley. If Parkin was concerned about his height it’s ironic that his ultimate replacement was even shorter.
Dean was released in the summer and dropped into non-league with Leek Town . He played 10 games for them in 2000/01 then dropped off the radar until being appointed player-manager of Alsager Town in 2007. He is now head coach at Rochdale Town and, despite his injury record, still playing at the age of 40.
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Position : Right back (also played at left back)
Played : 1988-89
Appearances : 25
Goals : 2
We now jump into 1998-99 the final chapter in the Graham Barrow story and it was a sorry one. We finished a place lower than the previous season and the arguments between fans got nastier although by the end of the season the Barrow In faction seemed to have dwindled down to just one family. Tannoy man’s favourite record in this ghost of a season was Ultra Nate’s “Free” and I’ll always associate its doleful melody with sitting in the depopulated WMG (we struggled to reach the 2,000 mark) awaiting another 90 minutes’ worth of sterile, five-at-the-back football. With Scarborough seemingly well adrift at the bottom it’s not even as though there was an element of danger to create a bit of excitement . Mini-runs in December and February kept us out of real trouble but it was mainly a case of waiting for the inevitable conclusion which came with one game to go after 3 consecutive defeats.
And most frustrating of all, it didn’t have to be like that. By the time of his departure Barrow could have put out the strongest team seen at Spotland for at least 5 years . No less than twelve of the squad went on to play a part in getting to the brink of the playoffs the following year and that doesn’t include Painter and Stuart. But Barrow’s team selections seemed almost wilfully perverse, accompanied by bizarre comments like how excited he got seeing our centre-halves in action, culminating in the home game against Chester in April where he started with four centre halves across the back and another in midfield. So ultimately his demise was a self-inflicted wound.
This is the season which I’m least qualified to write about since by its start I’d exhausted pre-marital reserves and was now under mortgage tyranny and unable to make many away games; some would say that was a blessing. It’s also the first season for which there’s a full set of match reports available on the rivals site www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/rochdale .I don’t see much point in regurgitating information available on there so if these posts get a bit briefer from this point on it’s not because I’m getting bored, honest !
Barrow excited everyone in the summer of 1998 by signing four more defenders, one of whom, Scott Williams from Wrexham, never made it on to the pitch. Even the returning Jason Peake had recently been playing left back. Paul , a free transfer from Preston, looked like a good signing as a replacement for Andy Fensome since it was he who’d nudged Fensome out of the Preston side going there on loan from his first club Crystal Palace in the run-in to their title triumph in 1996. However he’d quickly been found out in the Second Division and had only made 7 appearances in the last 2 years.
Paul looked suspect from day one. He was nutmegged for Plymouth’s winning goal in his first match and he was dropped for the first time after only 3 games. He was OK going forwards but showed little positional sense at the back and seemed to have difficulty concentrating for 90 minutes. By the end of September we’d brought in another right back in Mark Williams and when Paul came back into the side away at Rotherham in October it was on the left. He scored in that game and a few weeks later at Exeter and enjoyed a run in the side, reverting to the right when Williams departed, but still looked dodgy. He was dropped after the home draw against Cardiff in February and didn’t play again until the last game at Brighton/Gillingham where he supplied the cross for Andy Barlow’s last minute equaliser. That wasn’t enough to earn him a new contract and he moved on to Lancaster City. Interestingly I found a comment on a Crystal Palace forum from his brother-in-law who glossed over his release by saying “he moved to Rochdale for a year and didn’t like it there”. Well the feeling was mutual mate !
Paul played on for many years in non-league with Lancaster, Stalybridge Celtic and Kendal. He was last heard of at Chorley in 2008. He works alongside Graeme Atkinson as a coach at Myerscough College.
Monday, 17 January 2011
Position : Winger ( also played at right back )
Played : 1997-98 to 1999-2000
Appearances : 45
Goals : 0
Paul was a deadline day signing from Blackpool for whom he’d made just one League appearance the previous season.
No one had heard of him and he seemed a lightweight non-entity in his first few games. Then it clicked in the 2-2 draw at Rotherham in April 1998 where he was man of the match effortlessly beating his man with skill and close control. It was a shame there was only one more game to go. It didn’t seem to count for anything the following season when Paul had to wait until late November for his first game although thereafter he played in almost every game, sometimes at right back.
Paul’s time at Spotland ended in frustration as he became the first in a procession of wingers to crash against Steve Parkin’s distrust of the breed. His place in the side was claimed by Parkin’s assistant Tony Ford and he had to make do with late substitute appearances for the veteran. Parkin told him to be patient , that Ford couldn’t last all season but then brought in Chris Bettney as further competition. After making only three starts, Paul went on loan to Chester in March and despite their relegation to the Conference and the eccentric interference of American owner Terry Smith he signed for them permanently in the summer and found himself playing for Graham Barrow again.
After a successful season during which he moved into a more central midfield role he moved to Doncaster in the summer for £10,000 but returned to Chester for £4,000 just months later. This time round he stayed for nearly 4 years winning a Conference championship medal in 2004 and a re-start to his League career. Despite being player of the season in 2004-05 he was released by new manager Keith Curle and rejoined former boss Mark Wright at Peterborough. He played just one full season there, captured in the Big Ron Manager documentary series before leaving the club by mutual consent in October 2006. He signed for Burscough but immediately received an offer of Conference football with Burton and negotiated a loan deal made permanent in January. He then resumed his League career for a third time by signing for Accrington but only made 4 appearances before going on loan to Cambridge in November 2007. He signed permanently in the summer and was made assistant-manager a role he retains today after two brief spells as caretaker boss. As he is still only 31 he could make yet another return to League action.
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Position : Midfield
Played : 1997-98 (initially on loan from Swansea) to 2001-02 ; 2003-04 (initially on loan from Barnsley ) to ?
Appearances : (firsr spell) 142 ; (second spell) 262 (at time of writing)
Goals : (first spell) 22 ; (second spell ) 40 (at time of writing)
As has been written elsewhere Graham Barrow was a nice bloke and when Swansea sacked their assistant-manager Billy Ayre in autumn 1997 he was invited to help out with the coaching at Spotland to keep his hand in. Billy repaid us by recommending a young player on the fringe of the Swansea side that they had signed from Caernarfon Town in the summer so Barrow took him on loan in January 1998. It was a gift that's kept on giving.
Gary's arrival initially caused some confusion as Barrow had been publicly tracking the Notts County striker of the same name ( always an unlikely prospect with County riding high at the top of the table). He made his debut away at Peterborough and made an immediate false start by giving the ball away with his first touch. However by the end of the game he'd made a better impression with his willingness to drive the ball forwards. A timely first goal in his fourth game at home to Brighton saw the move being made permanent. Unfortunately Barrow then started mucking him around, often playing him wide on the right which has never been his best position. As such there were those in the crowd (who wouldn't admit it now) who didn't rate him.
The following season was even more frustrating as Gary was in and out of the side for the first half of the season and then dropped altogether from February until the last game of the season at Brighton (Gillingham) when caretaker boss David Hamilton immediately recalled him in the wake of Barrow's sacking and he was offered a new contract (which would have been unlikely had Barrow survived). He didn't start the next season in the first 11 as Dave Flitcroft had arrived in the summer but he got his chance early on when Flitcroft was suspended and played so well he was pretty immoveable from that day on.
Gary doesn't have silky on the ball skills and can't pick out a man with 40 yard passes; his touch is OK and he has good awareness of those around him but his main attribute is a tremendous will-to-win and the energy to drive forwards with the ball when he is difficult to stop.
He soon became captain of the side and started scoring more regularly. It was fairly inevitable when Steve Parkin left for Barnsley that he would come back for Gary.He left it a month during which Gary scored his best ever goal for us, a 30 yard volley at Bristol Rovers. Parkin came in with a bid of £200,00 in November 2001 and when the Board hesitated Gary helped things along with another volley - of foul-mouthed abuse at the Directors and the club in general for which I suspect some have never quite forgiven him.
Parkin never really won over the Barnsley fans and like John McGovern at Leeds Gary copped some of the flak for being the managers proxy on the pitch. The general consensus was that he was a good Division Three player who was out of his depth two leagues higher. Barnsley were relegated at the end of the season and Parkin was sacked in October 2002 although Gary kept his place in the side until he sustained a serious foot injury in April 2003.
The following season he didn't appear at all for them and their fans started accusing him of milking the injury and not wanting to play. He was rescued by Alan Buckley bringing him back to Spotland on loan in November Gary making the appropriate apologies to all and sundry. He made his second debut at home to Kidderminster with one fan near me standing up and shouting "F**k off Judas Jones ! " as soon as his name was read out. He returned in the middle of a dreadful run of results and still obviously hampered by the injury he couldn't do much to help as we lost the next 4 games. He missed Buckley's last game in charge through injury and when he returned his old mucker Parkin was back in charge.
Tieing up the loose ends of his contract with Barnsley took a few weeks but he was finally our player again on 13.1.2004 and he celebrated by getting himself sent off at Northampton the next day. He helped us avoid relegation while never being impressive. He missed the opening game of the next season but scored two in the next game and gradually worked his way back to full fitness helping us get close to the play-offs again. He had a poor start to the next season with a petulant sending off in the League Cup disaster against Bradford after they'd run rings around him in the midfield and his general below-par form contributed to a very disappointing season.
He had to sit out the last three months of 2006-07 through injury although he was involved in Keith Hill's early victories. His future seemed a bit uncertain the following season as Perkins and Doolan held the central midfield places at the start but after a great performance in the 4-2 win at Rotherham in December 2007 he seemed to get his mojo back and was fantastic all the way to the play-off final. He had an uneven time in 2008-09 with two injury breaks and the apparent end of his goalscoring days with no goals in 28 appearances. He was injured again in November 2009 and many including myself thought we were at our best when the two Jasons were in the midfield together and the eventual reintroduction of Gary may have cost us the title.
But that's the great thing about Gary; whenever I write him off he comes back better than ever. I thought he was finished in 2006 particularly after the defeat at Bury where Dave Flitcroft put him in his pocket and he took out his frustration on Tony Gallimore. I thought this season we'd give him a few games for old times sake and then phase him out but at the time of writing he's our top scorer.
So I'll conclude with a prediction - Gary Jones will never play in the Premier League - and let's see what happens ...
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Position : Winger
Played : 1997-98 ( on loan from Preston ) ; 1999-2000 to 2001-02
Appearances : ( first spell) 6 ; (second spell) 51
Goals : (first spell) 0 ; (second spell) 5
Graeme arrived on loan from Preston in December 1997 as Barrow experimented with a wing-back formation. He started out at Hull making 149 appearances and scoring 23 goals before an £80,000 move to Preston in October 1994. He played in their title-winning side of 1995-96 , much of it in a central midfield role. However he found games harder to come by in the Second Division and David Moyes told him he wouldn't have a regular place in his side.
Graeme was only with us for a month first time round. He wasn't great defensively but put some very good crosses over. He then returned to Preston and went out on loan to Brighton in March. He signed for them on month to month terms upon his release in the summer of 1998 but was let go in October after 7 appearances. He had a brief stay at Scunthorpe featuring once as a substitute then signed for bottom of the table Scarborough making 16 appearances and scoring once before Jimmy Glass's famous goal put them out of the League.
Steve Parkin rescued him by making him one of his first signings as the new Dale boss. He acquired the nickname "Lazarus" for his survival as a League player. He scored on his debut away at Cheltenham which leads into the one thing that everyone remembers about him ; he never scored at Spotland. He seemed to need the extra space he got in away games ; tightly marked he couldn't wriggle free. His control and touch were well above Third Division standard but he was a bit soft and avoided challenges. His best moment was the late winner at Rotherham in September 1999 a classic breakaway goal after we'd been reduced to 10 men.
Unfortunately Graeme picked up a serious injury in April and missed the whole of the 2000-01 season He made 11 appearances in 2001-02 but was more timid than ever and completely ineffective. I was astonished that John Hollins thought he was worth another contract and have wondered whether that influenced the Board to sack Hollins in the same way that the decisions on Hall and Thompstone doomed Docherty. The offer was withdrawn before Graeme could sign it and he went into non-league with Lancaster City while working for Leyland Trucks.
He currently works as a coach at Myerscough College;s football centre of excellence and is also chief scout for Barrow FC. He still turns out for his former clubs in charity matches.
You know who's coming next don't you ...?
Friday, 14 January 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 1997-98 (on loan from Blackburn)
Appearances : 10
Goals : 0
Graham Barrow thought we could never have too many centre-halves so Adam was signed on loan from Blackburn in December 1997 even though John Pender had just come into the side. Adam began his career with Darlington in 1992 and after 52 appearances for them became one of Ray Harford's first signings for Blackburn at £200,000 in 1995 . He never made the first team and spent three months back at Darlington on loan earlier in 1997.
While not being very significant in the general story Adam marked the start of a new chapter for me as he made his debut away at Scarborough, a game I took in on the penultimate day of my honeymoon, driving down from Berwick-on-Tweed that morning. Although the two months Adam was with us were fairly rocky in terms of results he himself was quite impressive, probably the best defender we had at the time.
I was quite hopeful we'd make it permanent but when he was released in the summer he chose to return to Darlington and spent the next 5 seasons there. He helped them reach the play-offs in May 2000. Later on he was dogged by injury and made only 8 appearances in his last two seasons there. In 2003 he left the professional game at 28 and signed for Whitby Town.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Position : Centre half
Played : 1997-98 to 1998-99 (didn't appear in latter season)
Appearances : 15
Goals : 0
John's debut in November 1997 was the last I witnessed as a bachelor. He had been signed from Wigan for a tribunal-set £11,500 in the summer but injury prevented him from making his debut until the FA Cup First Round game at home to Wrexham on 15.11.97 four days short of his 34th birthday. There's no doubt he had been a good player. He began his career at Wolves where he made 117 appearances and won Irish Youth and Under-21 caps. When Wolves were relegated to the third tier he moved to Charlton for £35,000 and went in the other direction. However he only made 3 appearances in the top flight and moved to Bristol City for £50,000 in October 1987. He was a regular for two easons then lost his place and moved on to Burnley in October 1990. There he became captain and led them to two promotions but rarely featured thereafter. In August 1995 Barrow took him to Wigan for £30,000 for whom he'd made 66 appearances before coming to us.
Having considered the competing claims of Dave Mossman, Gareth Gray and Darren Oliver I've concluded that John was our worst buy ever. We won 5 of the games he played in so I suppose he must have had decent games but I don't remember them , just his lumbering, overweight presence in a defense that had been doing OK without him. We lost the first two games he played; he was absolutely abysmal in the defeat at Hartlepool and he always looked like an accident waiting to happen. And it did; his last act in a Dale shirt in February 1998 at Scunthorpe was tackling the turf instead of his man leaving them free to score and himself crumpled up on the pitch. Barrow was hoping that he would return the following season - no one else was - but he didn't and reportedly screwed us for every last penny under his contract despite the obvious lack of VFM on the pitch.
He now resides in Telford.
Monday, 10 January 2011
Position : Goalkeeper
Played : 1997-98 to 2004-05
Appearances : 239
Goals : 0
In contrast to the Lancashire signing, Neil's arrival from Stockport for £25,000 in November 1997 took place in record time. After the mauling at Chester on the Saturday Neil was in the nets to face Lincoln on the Tuesday. He began his career at Leeds but continued concern about his height at 5' 9 led to a £5,000 move to Stockport in September 1991 where he immediately became first choice keeper. He made 164 appearances over 5 seasons fighting off a brief challenge from Matt Dickins ( that must have been difficult ) for his place. New manager David Jones brought in Paul Jones in August 1996 and Neil was out in the cold , even more so when Ian Gray went there the following summer.
There was some disquiet at the time about the way Lance Key had been treated but that was quickly forgotten as Neil immediately produced some top class displays and proved to be a great bloke as well. He kept a clean sheet against the route one musclemen of Lincoln (I've a feeling his debut was the first I witnessed from my new seat in the WMG) then three games later put on an outstanding one man display at Hartlepool when the rest of the team didn't seem to have turned up and were rightly jeered off at full time except for the Welshman. Then he started saving penalties - it seemed like we could get away with anything in the box knowing he would save the spot kick.
In his first three seasons he was fantastic then he started picking up injuries and gradually his performances slipped down a notch and his place came under pressure from Matt Gilks. He only made 7 appearances in the 2001-02 season when we made the play-offs although he played in both legs of the semi-final against Rushden. He reclaimed his place at the start of the next season but picked up an injury in February 2003 that was still troubling him at the start of 2003-04. He came back in October and played to the end of the season. In 2004-05 he was still first choice up to October then lost his place to Gilks and never got it back.
That summer he decided to rejoin Graham Barrow at Bury on a Bosman. He played 24 games up to January 2006 then had to call it a day, sadly conceding 8 goals in his last 2 games. He now works as a goalkeeping coach at Bolton.
Sunday, 9 January 2011
Position : Forward
Played : 1997-98 to 2000-01
Appearances : 83
Goals : 23
Graham was signed after protracted negotiations from Wigan for £40,000 in October 1997. He started out at Burnley making his debut as a sub in May 1991. The following season he got a run in the side and scored 8 goals in his first 7 games. Despite that he was dropped when others returned from injury and never got a real chance again at Turf Moor. He got a Fourth Division Championship medal in 1992. The following season he failed to make a mark either at Burnley or on loan at Halifax but in 1994 went on loan to Graham Barrow's Chester and sealed their promotion by scoring 7 in 11 games before returning to Burnley to sit on the bench at Wembley as they won the Second Division Play-off final. He made one more appearance for them before joining Preston for £55,000 in December 1994. He failed to score in 17 games for them that season. He did better in 1995-96 scoring twice in 6 games before he went on loan to Wigan. After 3 goals in 4 appearances he was signed permanently for £35,000 and formed a partnership with Graeme Jones that won the Division Three title in 1997 despite him picking up an injury which kept him out from the beginning of October to the end of February. He only featured in 2 games the following season amid doubts about his long term fitness which is what gave Barrow the opportunity to sign him again.
Graham made his debut at home to Scunthorpe in October 1997 and made his mark within 10 minutes when he slipped his marker, drew the keeper and squared it for Alex Russell to tap in, a very impressive, unselfish, piece of play. In his next game he got a brace in the 5-0 demolition of Darlington and it looked like we had a bargain. However, the downside of signing someone of questionable fitness was soon evident as he was injured again by the end of the month returning to score at Doncaster at the end of November. He ended the season on 9 from 27 games.
Graham was regarded by some as merely a penalty-box predator but his link-up play was very good as well and for a short-ish guy he was good in the air , able to get power and direction on his headers. His second season with us was a bit of a wash-out managing only 11 games and 3 goals which contributed to the demise of Barrow. He came to be regarded as a white elephant and the incoming Steve Parkin was expected to pension him off. However Parkin still rated him and he managed 29 games and 8 goals in 1999-00 including a purple patch in January where he scored in 4 successive games and formed a lethal partnership with Tony Ellis. He also scored the golden goal in the best ever FL Trophy game where we came from 2-0 down to beat Macclesfield 3-2. Unfortunately the following season he went missing again and had only played 4 odd games before returning to first team action with the sole gooal in our 1-7 humiliation by Shrewsbury. Although he stayed fit for the rest of the season , Paul Connor was bought to replace him and Graham was restricted to substitute appearances. He scored his last League goal, a late consolation strike in a crucial 3-1 defeat at Blackpool which enabled them to pip us to the last play-off spot. In his last League game away at Plymouth he came on and had a last minute chance to rescue the situation but put a header wide of the post.
His time was over and he joined Hednesford Town on a free transfer playing on for a couple more years. He now works as a gardener but also organises schools football events for Speed Mark.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
Position : Midfield
Played : 1997-98 to 1998-99
Appearances : 54
Goals : 1
Ian was another veteran , a 34-year old signed on a free from Preston. Ian's career began in Sotland with Hurlford United before signing for his hometown club Kilmarnock for whom he made 216 appearances scoring 41 goals. In 1988 he signed for Dave Bassett's Sheffield United for £40,000 , a great move as he featured in successive promotions and played for three seasons in the top flight. After 155 appearances and 36 goals he moved to Barnsley for £20,000 in the summer of 1993 but only stayed there till November when Preston bought him for £42,500. He was made captain of the side and scored a spectacular overhead kick in their playoff Final against Wycombe in 1994. The following season he played alongside a loanee called David Beckham for a few games. The year after that he led them to the Third Division title. He appeared in nearly every game in the Second but mainly as a substitute.
Ian began his first season with us injured and didn't appear until early October at home to Scunthorpe. In his first couple of games he was tremendous, the complete midfield man who could win tackles, weight a pass and get forward. He was the main man behind the 5-0 thrashing of Darlington. However he soon ran out of steam and Barrow compounded the problem by persistently playing him on the wing in preference to Mark Stuart. Ian had played there before in his career but just didn't have the legs for it anymore. After a two-month run in the side he was injured in the 6-1 FL Trophy defeat at Carlisle and didn't return until the end of March. He got injured in the warm-up away at Torquay early in April and missed the rest of the season. As he was signed on a two year deal Ian started the next season in the side and for a month or two he was again very good but age soon caught up with him. He scored a good goal to seal the win against Scarborough in the FA Cup when he managed to find the net from distance after their keeper had come up for a late corner. He had another six week injury break at the end of January then just went through the motions as the Barrow era wound to a close.
Ian played on for a while with Bamber Bridge and still plays in the Preston Veterans' League. He is now a match summariser for PA Sports.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
Position : Midfield ( also played upfront )
Played : 1997-98
Appearances : 3
Goals : 0
Craig was signed on loan from Derby in August as we had an injury crisis almost straightaway with all the codgers in the squad.
Craig proved that going up a couple of divisions for a loanee is no guarantee of quality. He made his League debut for us away at Leyton Orient as a substitute for Mark Carter who had been left alone up front after Mark Leonard dropped back to cover Keith Hill's sending-off. He did alright, winning a few headers and trying to hold the ball up. When he got a game in normal circumstances there was an immediate problem; he had a lack of mobility which made Paul Williams look like Thierry Henry. The game just went on around him.
Later in the season he went to Rushden and Diamonds in the Conference but only made two brief appearances there. Released in the summer he went to Burton Albion for three seasons. He was last heard of at Hinckley United in 2002.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Position : Centre half (also played left back)
Played : 1997-98
Appearances : 3
Goals : 0
Like Alan Reeves before him Andy was actually playing in our reserves while still under contract to another club, in his case Cardiff City. An England Youth international he started out with Blackburn but made all his previous League appearances -16- for Cardiff.
He signed for a year in August 1997. He had looked quite useful in the reserves but after Mark Bailey we were wary of expecting too much. A tall rangy player, he made his debut as a sub in the first game at Notts County but thereafter stayed on the bench at best until his full debut at left back at home to Leyton Orient. Despite a decent performance by Andy we lost the game and he didn't get another chance until late in the season away at Rotherham. I think he deserved a few more outings.
Andy moved on to Stalybridge and played there for three years mainly in midfield scoring a spectacular goal against Chester in the FA Cup. He then followed manager Phil Wilson around playing for him at Southport and Lancaster City. He was last heard of at Altrincham in 2007.