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 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.