Monday, 31 January 2011

272 Graham Hicks

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

271 Gareth Stoker

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

270 Jason Lydiate

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.

269 Phil Priestley

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

268 Andy Morris

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

267 Michael Holt

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

266 Miguel De Souza

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

265 Mark Williams

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

264 Mark Monington

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

263 Isidro Diaz

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.

262 David Gray

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

261 Dean Stokes

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

260 Paul Sparrow

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 .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

259 Paul Carden

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

258 Gary Jones

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

257 Graeme Atkinson

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

256 Adam Reed

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

255 John Pender

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

254 Neil Edwards

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

253 Graham Lancashire

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

252 Ian Bryson

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

251 Craig Smith

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

250 Andy Scott

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.