Barry Fry: A larger than life character

by Matthew Crist / 07 April 2018, 10:28

In almost 60 years in the game Barry Fry has played for ten clubs, managed nine, been sacked 12 times, suffered two heart attacks, had two new hips and now finds himself as Director at Peterborough United; proving, if it were ever needed, that this larger than life character lives and breathes football.

As a young player Fry was an apprentice at Manchester United, a product of Matt Busby’s youth policy which was responsible for such great names as Duncan Edwards and George Best, though he never kicked a ball in anger at Old Trafford ahead of brief spells with Bolton Wanderers, Luton Town and Leyton Orient, before retiring prematurely due to injury.

Barry Fry

His first taste of management came at Dunstable Town who hired Fry and gave him the finances to build a team, he proved an instant hit; even recruiting old mates Jeff Astle and George Best to turn out for the club in order to raise their profile.

Following his departure from Dunstable, having guided them to promotion in his first season, Fry enjoyed spells at Hillingdon Borough and Bedford Town, before becoming Barnet manager in 1979 for the first of two stints which covered almost thirteen seasons.

After consolidating Barnet’s position in the Alliance League for six seasons Fry left Underhill for Maidstone United in 1985 before returning to Barnet in August 1986, eventually taking the Bees into the Football League in 1991 and it was here that he suffered his first heart attack while trying to push the team bus after it had broken down.

Just two years later he guided them to the newly formed Division Two for the first time in the club’s history despite being sacked eight times time by then club chairman Stan Flashman only to be reinstated again each time.

In 1993 his stock had risen considerably and Fry became Southend United manager, taking over a club which was bottom of English football’s second-tier and performing a miracle to keep the Essex side in the league, becoming an instant hero among the club’s fans in the process but he would soon be on the move again when Birmingham City came calling.

Though he couldn’t prevent The Blues being relegated in his first season, his side bounced straight back, winning the Division Two championship and the Football League Trophy during the 1994/95 season; while in 1996 Fry guided City to the semi-finals of the League Cup.

But a mid-table league finish that season wasn’t enough to save his job and having departed St Andrews the ultimate football journeyman became chairman-manager of Peterborough United, pumping much of the compensation payment he received from his sacking at Birmingham into the club.

Once again Fry found himself in a relegation scrap and couldn’t save Posh from dropping into Division Three in his first season in charge but did help them regain their second-flight status three years later, just one of the many roller-coaster seasons he would enjoy during his nine-year reign at the club.

His time as manager finally came to an end in May 2005 after Peterborough were relegated again, but that wasn’t the end of his love affair with the London Road club as he took up a role as director of football.

In the years since Fry has been responsible for promoting much of the young talent which has passed through the ranks at Peterborough before moving on to bigger and better things often earning the club vital transfer fees in the process; players such as Dwight Gayle, George Boyd, Paul Taylor and Conor Washington.

Now into his third decade at London Road and well into his 70s Fry shows no signs of letting up, telling the Daily Mail before the club’s FA Cup tie with Chelsea in January 2017:

“I've had two heart attacks, new hips, 56 pre-seasons and I've loved it.”

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