John McSeveney's spell as Barnsley manager was short and not especially sweet, but one he looked back on as a crucial part of a learning process which helped keep him involved in football for a further 30 years.
The Oakwell boss between September 1971 and October 1972 – a particularly testing time in the club’s history – the Scotsman, who has died aged 89, settled in the town. A well as having successful spells as assistant manager at Rotherham and Sheffield United, McSeveney’s work took him as far afield as Ireland, Guyana and the United Arab Emirates, but he always returned to Barnsley.
Born in another mining town, Shotts, which lies halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, he worked as a pit mechanic during the early days of a football career which began at Hamilton Academical.
A free-scoring forward, McSeveney earned a move to Sunderland in 1951, switched to Cardiff in 1955 and also played for Newport and Hull where, after finishing his playing career with a total of 152 goals in 514 league games, he turned to coaching in the mid-sixties.
He was 40 when he gained his first managerial role at Barnsley, taking charge of team affairs as Johnny Steele became ‘general manager’ after 11 years in the hotseat. It was a move Steele agreed to and it was he who recommended compatriot McSeveney after the pair met on a Football Association coaching course.
The Reds had won promotion from the Fourth Division (now League Two) in 1968 but, with finances tight and attendances falling, were perilously close to the foot of the Third Division when Steele moved ‘upstairs’.
McSeveney was one of the new breed of ‘tracksuit managers’, and had his new charges putting in extra hours on the training pitch while instructing them on rest and diet – as well as urging them to have regular hair cuts.
But like most things at Oakwell at the time, it had to be done on a strict budget, and he later quipped: “Pre-match, the lads had cornflakes, toast and honey rather than steak, although they were allowed an extra drop of milk!”
While he signed ‘keeper Gerry Stewart from Preston, defender Paddy Greenwood from his old club Hull and brawny striker Brian Mahoney from Huddersfield, McSeveney was unable to stave off relegation on goal average.
He lasted 16 league matches the following season, being sacked after a run of just one win in eight and after successive home games, a 2-0 defeat by Darlington and goalless draw with Torquay, were seen by only 2,735 and 2,246 respectively.
While Jim Iley eventually took over at Oakwell (Steele had five months in caretaker charge), McSeveney became manager of Dublin club Home Farm, and had a spell coaching at Nottingham Forest before spells in charge of Waterford and the national teams of Guyana and Oman.
As assistant to Ian Porterfield at Rotherham then Sheffield United, he won three promotions in four seasons in the early 1980s, and then scouted for a string of clubs, including Manchester United.