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
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness