Barry Fry Years - Part Six
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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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Son of Stan
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.
In October, after a goalless draw at home, Fry was apparently sacked, then immediately reinstated. Both men denied this, however. On the pitch results were starting to go Barnet's way. Darlington, who were that season's renegades from the league, were unbeaten when Barnet visited them in November. Following Barnet's 2-1 victory their manager conceded: "Barnet played us off the park." Similar praise was heaped upon Barry's side from other opponent's managers.
So Near, Yet So Far...
Despite this, Barnet could only hang onto Darlington's coat tails as both teams raced ahead of their fellow Conference sides. The two sides played at Underhill in March. Although both sides started nervously, it was Darlington that took the spoils - once again, Barnet stalled under the enormity of the situation.
It needed a collapse by Darlington for Barnet to win the championship, but this never materialised. Once again, Barnet were so close, yet so far - the door to league status slammed shut in their face, just as they had one foot over the threshold.
Once More into the Breech
The summer of 1990 saw speculation about whether Barnet would join Darlington in Division Four anyway, at the expense of Aldershot who looked they might be bankrupt; that many of the squad would be signed by league clubs; and even Fry was going to take up vacancies at either Northampton or Lincoln. But the start of the 90/91 season saw Barnet in more-or-less the same state they had been at the end of the previous season and they let rip in one more attempt to capture the elusive league place.
Their first six games saw them score thirty goals with only four conceded. Then in September, midfielder Phil Gridelet was sold to Barnsley for £175,000 - a record for a non-league team. Fry assured everyone that there would be no more sales, but this was soon followed by two more players leaving for a total of £85,000. The players were said to be unsettled, wanting league football - Fry was never one for holding back anyone's career - but rumours abounded that there was pressure from Flashman to bring some money in.
Barnet found themselves in the third round of the FA Cup in January. 6200 people, the largest crowd at Underhill for seventeen years, watched Barnet smashed 5-0 by Portsmouth. Around the same time, the clubhouse, paid for by the BFCSA in the early sixties, burnt down - rumours abounded as to whether the insurance payout may have been a possible cause.
Record Transfer Fee
The season then continued in familiar form with inconsistent results and comings and goings on the transfer market. This included Andy Clarke moving to Wimbledon in February for another record fee of £350,000. Clarke had been discovered by Fry, playing Sunday football in 1989. In his first season he had interest from various top clubs, including Manchester United, Newcastle and Arsenal but the expected move had never happened. Fry brought in eleven players during the season, but they had mixed fortunes, especially when they were thrown into deep-end of the promotion battle.
One of these was Nicky "God" Evans, returning from Wycombe. Barnet's form had improved and in March they managed to knock Kettering off the top of the table. This position did not last long, however, and Barnet dropped to fourth place - three points behind the leaders, Colchester.
The pressure was starting to tell on Stan Flashman. He told one player, Roger Willis, that he would never play for Barnet again and pointed a finger at Fry, saying: "He is always the bridesmaid, and never the bride. On paper Barry does a great job but you can't keep finishing second without someone taking the blame ... It's possible I might be out. I feel drained ... I am sick."
A 3-1 win was a tonic for an ailing chairman and this was soon followed by two 3-1 away wins and results going their way amongst their promotion challengers. All Barnet had to do was draw their final game - away at Fisher Athletic - and the dream would be realised.
Fisher Athletic 2 - 4 Barnet
It seemed that all of the 4283 spectators at the modest Surrey Docks stadium were rooting for the Bees. Fisher opened the account, before Barnet levelled again. Then Fisher scored again. Once more Barnet equalised, and with four minutes to go only needed to hold on to that score. Suddenly, completely out of character for Barnet in these circumstances, they scored a third!
It looked as though nothing could now stop them. Just in case their bad luck caught up with them, fortune decreed that a penalty be awarded to them in the dying seconds. It was scored, leaving a very misleading score line of 4-2. Not since 1966 had so many people been so happy to see that score. Supporters and players celebrated together on the pitch. Stan Flashman was quoted as saying that Barry Fry would become one of the best managers in the league and even speculated that Barnet would carry on to the First Division!
The season started with much anticipation. In true Barnet style, they suffered a bizarre home defeat of 7-4 at the hands of Crewe. Barry Fry said of the game: "It was a carnival occasion and Barnet were the clowns. My defenders must have thought tackle is what they go fishing with."
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