Barry Fry Years - Part Five
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So far we have chartered the history since the formation of the club, up until the end of the 86/87 season.
We would be grateful to anyone who can add to anything written here. Apart from pointing out any inaccuracies, we would be pleased to receive contributions so that this history can be "fleshed out" even more. For that reason, the details on this page are likely to be changed as more information is unearthed.
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A Nicky Evans Hat Trick and the Arrival of Wilson
Barnet's first match of the 87/88 season saw them against Lincoln City - the first casualty of automatic relegation from the league. They had retained professional status and were confident of bouncing back up. Barnet enjoyed a 4-2 win, with a hat-trick from Dave Sansom. This was followed by other good wins, including a 7-0 win at Wycombe with a Nicky Evans hat-trick.
Barnet were back on top of the Conference. In October Barnet were away to Lincoln. Lincoln had adopted a rough style of play and the match was littered with crude tackles from the home side, which went largely unpunished. Two Barnet players were sent off after being provoked and the referee gave Lincoln a very dubious penalty.
Barnet nearly pulled the game back to 2-2, even though they only had nine men. A league inquiry followed as a result of the violent scenes and inadequate refereeing, but Barnet were offered no compensation - no surprise there then!
By February Barnet were seven points clear at the top of the Conference, but in March Enfield beat them 2-0. This was the first defeat since the Lincoln game, and only the third of the season. This seemed to cause the nerves to set in, as defeat after defeat soon followed. Barry Fry made four signings in the run up to the transfer deadline.
One of who was a player from Barking by the name of Paul Wilson. He soon earned the nickname of "Psycho" with his tackling, commitment and the power of his shooting. He stayed at Barnet for years to come and was still making first team appearances in the 1999/00 season. Although he played for Boston for one season in 2000/01, he has now come back to Barnet as first team coach.
Lincoln were now also starting to suffer from promotion jitters, and Kettering had put on a run that looked as though it may not be just a two-horse race between Barnet and Lincoln. Barnet only had to win their last two games to secure the coveted championship place.
A record (in recent years) crowd of 5143 crammed Underhill to see what they assumed would be the first of these victories. The opponents were Runcorn, who had recently dispatched Lincoln 3-0, but were otherwise regarded as a straightforward source of three points. Barnet lost 2-1, and with Lincoln winning their game, Barnet were knocked off their perch for the first time in 23 weeks.
Despite Barnet winning their last game, so did Lincoln, and they bounced straight back up to the Fourth Division. Hearts were heavy this time round. The October game against Lincoln should have been a draw in many minds, and had it been, it would have been the Bees flying up to the Holy-Grail of league-status.
Barry Fry said: "I feel that the players and I have let down the fans and the chairman who have been marvellous. Second is not good enough. We have not come up with the goods. I would have no quarrel if I lost my job, though I would soon be offered another."
Although he did not comment straight away, Flashman came out with these prophetic words a few days later: "If we had gone into the league would we have been able to afford it? Is it all worth it? If the club had won promotion we may have considered turning it down. Our league is better than Division Four. Is it better to be successful and play exciting entertaining football in the Conference? Would we be happy as a mid-table Fourth Division side? We will only go into the league if it is financially viable. I don't want to go in just for the glory. I want to enjoy it. I believe in doing things right and showing a profit." This line of reasoning is not lost on a small number of Barnet fans today.
A testimonial match against Tottenham for Kevin Millet offered some diversion for the Barnet faithful. Kevin had joined the club in 1979, as one of Barry Fry's players from his previous sides.
Bye Bye Nicky
The 88/89 season was Barnet's centenary season. The side had been rebuilt during the close-season. The selling of players continued throughout the start of the season, including some spectacular six-figure sums. These were largely replaced with a series of loans and free-transfers.
Although there were mutterings on the terraces as to what was going on, things only came to a head when Nicky Evans, known to some as "God", was sold to Wycombe for £32,000. At the time the fans blamed Flashman for his departure, but given that Fry sold all but two of the first-team players, perhaps it was not so significant?
Meanwhile, on the pitch, results were understandably not brilliant. At one point Barnet flirted with the relegation zone, but after November, they put on an impressive run, which took them into the championship-chasing group. More players were then sold, the form suffered, and finally the season ended with Barnet in eighth place. Quite an achievement considering the state of flux the team had been in - some 47 players were used over the season.
That season saw Fry's ex-Maidstone side claim the coveted championship. Although some said that that could have been Barnet's season (as there had been no clear table-topper all season) Fry had built a side that would go on and claim the Conference crown. His enthusiastic selling and buying of players, like some people trade shares, had left a very healthy amount in the bank - and the team looked forward to the next season.
Here is a sneak preview...
During the 89/90 season Barry bought Gary Phillips back as Barnet were in need of a goalkeeper. There were rumours that Flashman was not happy about this. The previous goalie, Peter Guthrie, had been bought from Spurs for £60,000. Fry stuck with him, even though he let in some soft goals. Speculation grew that Fry had only persisted with Guthrie under duress from Flashman. There was also a reserve goalkeeper available, who had been featuring in Barnet's reserve side - his name was Mark Flashman - son of Stan...
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