Malcolm Barrass: Robust stalwart of postwar Bolton

In the 1953 Cup final the man he was marking, Stan Mortensen, played one of his best games

Rocklike yet somehow refined, Malcolm Barrass was a colossal presence in the Bolton Wanderers side during the decade immediately after the Second World War, initially as a versatile attacker, but mostly as a trusty central bulwark of the rearguard, the role in which he earned three caps for England. The tall, robust, left-footed Lancastrian thought deeply about the game. After every match he would mull over the action, kicking every ball over again in his mind’s eye, and his intelligent approach was a major factor in the Trotters’ steady tenure in the top flight of the English game throughout his time at Burnden Park.

Barrass, whose father Matt had played for Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City between the wars, signed for Bolton as an amateur in 1944 from Ford Motors, a Manchester works team, having turned down an offer from Wolverhampton Wanderers following a successful trial. At first he was a free-scoring inside-forward, hitting 22 goals in 40 emergency wartime games during 1944-45, then bagging a brace in his senior debut, a 3-2 home victory over Stoke City in September 1946.

He could put in a potent stint up front, too, contributing four goals in the 5-1 thrashing of Manchester City at Burnden in November 1948, and had it not been for the simultaneous emergence of the fearsomely physical young Nat Lofthouse as a centre- forward of international class, then the burly Barrass might have made Bolton’s No 9 shirt his own. As it was his combination of power, determination and composure, topped off with a dash of culture on the ball, saw him gravitate to the half-back line, and it was as a centre-half that he earned his first full England call-up, in October 1951, when he effectively blotted out the fearsomely combative Welsh marauder Trevor Ford in a 1-1 draw at Ninian Park, Cardiff.

Barrass, whose initial representative honour had been in the unofficial Victory international against Wales at West Bromwich in 1945, collected two more caps, never regaining his place after his immediate opponent, Lawrie Reilly, had scored twice for Scotland in a 2-2 encounter at Wembley in April 1953. Another crushing disappointment awaited two weeks later on that same lush turf, when Bolton, despite being reduced to 10 fit men by an injury to wing-half Eric Bell, took a 3-1 lead over Blackpool in the FA Cup final, only to slump to a demoralising 4-3 defeat.

 Though Barrass did not perform badly overall in the game, he was unfortunate to confront two of the finest footballers in the land at their most destructive. The man he was marking, the Seasiders’ centre-forward Stan Mortensen, was at his effervescent best and plundered a brilliant hat-trick, then the Trotters’ leg-weary No 5 was one of two defenders left floundering in the wake of the ageing maestro Stanley Matthews as he set up the injury-time winner. The nation rejoiced that the 38-year-old Peter Pan of football, the most famous and beloved player in the world at the time, had pocketed a winner’s medal at last in his third final, but for Bolton, and Barrass, there was only acute frustration. However, he was a resilient character and in 1953-54 he touched the finest form of his career as the Trotters climbed to fifth place in the First Division table for the second time in three years.  

Bolton continued to benefit from Barrass’s toughness and fortitude on and off the field. He was a strong-minded individual who didn’t mince his words and was always ready to stand up for his team-mates, especially the young ones, in their dealings with the club. This approach didn’t always endear him to the management and, following several disagreements with manager Bill Ridding, and after more than 350 games, in September 1956 he was sold to Sheffield United of the Second Division for £4,160.

The forthright 31-year-old, who was replaced as defensive pivot by the up-and-coming John Higgins, was sad to leave behind a promising youthful side with a feisty team spirit, but he did relish the chance to play under the Bramall Lane manager Joe Mercer, one of the game’s most inspirational personalities. It didn’t work out for Barrass, though, as he couldn’t eclipse the comparatively diminutive but ultra-competitive Joe Shaw, and in the summer of 1958 he was freed to become player-manager of non-League Wigan Athletic.

There followed a stint managing Nuneaton Borough, then he settled in Bury and worked as a sales representative while finding time to train smaller clubs such as Pwllheli and Hyde United. The Barrass family footballing tradition was maintained by Malcolm’s grandson, Matt, a full-back with Bury during the first few seasons of the new millennium.

Malcolm Williamson Barrass, footballer: born Blackpool 15 December 1924; played for Bolton Wanderers 1944-56, Sheffield United 1956-58; capped three times by England 1951-53; married (one daughter, one son); died Bury 4 August 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions