Barry Murphy played a record 569 Barnsley games from 1962-78 then was a coach in the famous Allan Clarke era and is now club ambassador and matchday host. In his new autobiography, he discusses his life and career with his beloved Reds. Here are some exclusive extracts
CELEBRATING FAMOUS PROMOTION IN UNDERPANTS
WHEN I HAD arrived at Barnsley, we were getting crowds of less than 3,000, which was smaller than at South Shields, and I felt like I could look into the stand and know everybody’s name.
But, by the end of the 1967/68 promotion season, we were averaging 15,000 crowds and the place was buzzing more than ever.
We went through the entire season unbeaten at home, something Barnsley wouldn’t do again until the 2018/19 campaign more than half a century later.
We won 17 and drew six of our 23 home games as teams found Oakwell a very, very difficult place to go to. The confidence was oozing out of each and every one of us and we never even considered that we could lose.
Ourselves and Luton were at the top of the table for pretty much the whole season. It was a fantastic battle and we used to always look at the table to see who was on top after each game. In those days, we had to wait until the newspapers came out to see other results and the table, because we couldn’t just check our mobile phones in the dressing-room like they do now.
At the start of April we lost 1-0 at Bradford City, who scored in the last minute, but that seemed to spur us on as we won our next five games including a 4-1 victory at Notts County. We then went to Chester for our last away game, needing a point to go up, with one more home game remaining after that trip.
Big Eric (Winstanley) headed us in front and that settled our nerves. Eddie Loyden, who would sign for us later in the year, equalised for Chester but the match finished 1-1. We were up.
After the game, we all went up on the balcony at Chester’s Sealand Road stadium where the directors were. I went up without my shorts on because I had taken them off in the dressing room and didn’t have a chance to put them back on. I was chased up into the directors’ box in just my pants. I got ridiculed for that for years to come but I didn’t mind because it was a wonderful day to look back on.
We didn’t get back home until 4am because we were stopping at different pubs all the way back to drink with supporters and celebrate. It was a fantastic night, one of the best of my life.I always used to go to a pub in Hoyle Mill, in Barnsley, with some of our neighbours and the first time I walked in after promotion they were all waiting for me and they put Congratulations by Cliff Richard on the jukebox as loud as possible.
We hosted Newport County in our last game of the season and, after the final whistle, to see all the fans run onto the pitch to celebrate with us was fantastic. The stands were nearly empty. It was a marvellous feeling. I sometimes look at the photographs of me being mobbed by the crowd and it brings it all back. We had a police escort to get off the pitch. The fans didn’t mean any harm, they just wanted to celebrate with us.
The club held a promotion dinner at Keresforth Hall with a lot of businessmen, people from the council and fans. It was fantastic to see what it meant to the community of Barnsley. My wife Josy was there in a maternity dress because she was eight and a half months pregnant with our son, Neil.
That was a great year… a baby and a promotion.
I think that season was a real saviour for the club, coming so soon after all the financial trouble. To think that, just one year before, the club had nearly folded, and now we were promoted. It made it even sweeter. Things could have gone another way if we hadn’t done so well on the pitch and attracted fans back to the club. It set up a lot of the success which was still to come.
DROPPED FOR DERBY AFTER THREE YEARS AND 182 CONSECUTIVE STARTS
EVENTUALLY I WAS dropped on Halloween night in 1970 at home to Doncaster Rovers, after being in the team for more than three years and 182 consecutive matches.
I was sitting in the dressing-room before the game and, suddenly, I could see people looking at the team sheet, which had just gone up on the wall… and muttering while glancing over at me.
I went over and my name wasn’t on it.
I was told I had been dropped.
I hadn’t been used to having setbacks for a few years so it hit me pretty hard.
I know football is a team game but I had worked so hard to keep myself fit and consistent across three years to stay in the team and help the club.
I felt sick.
I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was down and out, sitting on the bench and feeling sorry for myself.
Lawrie McMenemy, my old friend from the North East, was the Doncaster manager at that time. He walked into his dugout and saw me sitting on the substitutes bench when the game was about to start.
‘I’m glad you’re sitting in there, Murph,’ he told me, ‘… and you’re not out on that pitch.’
It was nice to hear, but it didn’t really make me feel any better.
We had a difficult start to the 1970/71 season and were languishing near the bottom of the table.
I had been going through a poor patch of form, in truth, and Johnny Steele dropped me for a lad called Paul Turner, who was a teenager from Barnsley. The manager told me he wanted to have a look at Paul.
With me not getting any younger, he wanted to have a back-up.
It was his decision to make as the manager.
He wanted to give me a kick up the backside, into the bargain.
I didn’t have any animosity towards Johnny about that.
I had to remind myself that I was just grateful to be a professional footballer.
It backfired on Johnny because Paul didn’t do so well and I managed to get back into the team for the next game, in the Sheffield Cup against Sheffield United, and I set up two goals in a 3-2 win.
I also started in the league the following Saturday and began another long run.
I was determined not to lose my place again so I worked on my game a lot and I was more attacking that season, setting up a few goals and plenty of chances for my teammates.
ALLAN CLARKE ARRIVES AND REVITALISES CLUB AT END OF DIFFICULT 1970S
THE EXPENSIVE SHOES made a loud noise on the Oakwell corridor as our famous new manager walked down to the dressing-room to meet us.
As club captain, I’d been asked to get all the players together. I had everyone in the dressing-room. Waiting.
TAP, TAP… TAP.
We’d all seen Allan Clarke on TV playing for England and Leeds United, and he had been one of the most famous players in the country in the 1970s.
We were all very much taken aback that he had decided to come to Barnsley… to come down to the Fourth Division, and we didn’t exactly know what to expect.
He walked in the door and I thought it was Jesus Christ himself.
He was wearing a grey mohair suit and white shoes.
He looked a million dollars. We were all speechless.
It had been a tough decade for the town and the club, with us mainly being in the Fourth Division and the attendances getting smaller.
But everything changed under Allan.
He revitalised the club.
He made it so much more professional. Ernest Dennis, the chairman, had done very, very well to get him to come to the club but Allan had always wanted to be a player/manager and he was given the chance to do that at Oakwell.
He served his apprenticeship as a manager at Barnsley and learned a lot.
He encouraged the players to go into the community a lot more. I had always done that but the whole squad were doing it under Allan and it made us much more of a community club.
Even Allan’s attitude to players’ wives was very different.
Before he arrived, they were lucky to get a seat or a cup of tea at half-time but then he changed all of that and made sure they were looked after. When he took us away to Marbella in pre-season, he sent flowers and a box of chocolates to each of the wives.
Allan made sure that every single person at the club felt appreciated and, being such a big name, it gave them all a big lift, and made them more motivated and passionate in their jobs.
He brought a lot of his ideas in from Don Revie, who he had played under at Leeds. The players trained with a ball all the time under Allan, which was very different to Jim Iley, who made us do a lot of running.
Allan was also red-hot on discipline.
If someone didn’t do what the boss wanted, that player would soon change his mind if he wanted to play. If Allan didn’t think the players had given 100 per cent in training in the morning, he would bring them back in the afternoon for an extra session.
His appointment and the way he changed the club started an upward trajectory that, a few decades later after some ups and downs, would lead to Barnsley getting to the Premiership.
HE NEEDED STITCHES AFTER HURDLING WITH NORMAN RIMMINGTON
NORMAN made some hurdles out of cane and put them together with tape and a few nails.
He took us to a bit of wasteland where the car park is now at Oakwell.
It used to belong to Barnsley Brewery Company but we could use it if we wanted. It was very bumpy, uneven ground but he put these rickety hurdles out and got us to run along and jump over them. He would test our pulse after each run.
It all came to an end when I tried to jump over the second one but didn’t clear it properly.
I stood on the top of his hurdle and it gave way under my weight.
I fell straight down on top of it and it cut the inside of my leg.
There was blood all over the grass.
I was taken to hospital and had to have stitches in the wound.
Apparently, I fainted but I can’t really remember.
Norman threw the hurdles in the bin. ‘I thought it was a good idea but I was wrong,’ he admitted. ‘Forget about it.’
He always meant well for the club and his heart was in the right place.
He is the true Mr Barnsley and I miss him very much.
HIS ONLY RED CARD WAS FOR FOULING NEIL WARNOCK
I PLAYED against Neil Warnock when he was at Scunthorpe. There was a 50/50 tackle and I whacked him.
He rolled and rolled and rolled… and screamed like a pig. I was sent off.
It wasn’t that bad a tackle; I probably made much worse challenges in my career.
You would have thought I had taken most of his leg off.
That was Neil Warnock as a player; he used to fall over every time you touched him. We were in the furthest corner of the pitch and I had to walk all the way across The Old Show Ground after my red card. He was laughing at me as I was walking off, which I didn’t like.
He admitted later that I was unlucky to be sent off.
Neil later became my team-mate and a friend. We still get on very well.