Football Diary: Fry fetes Barnet's finest

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The Independent Online
PERHAPS the summer's most predictable transfer was Dave Regis's move from Stoke to Birmingham. Barry Fry could not, of course, let the close season pass without signing another ex-Barnet player. For as revealed in a new book by Tony Thornton, Barnet - The Club That Wouldn't Die*, Fry re-signed 16 former Barnet players during his time there. 'Incredibly,' Thornton writes, 'in two and a half seasons managing Maidstone, Southend and Birmingham, Fry almost equalled this, signing 14 ex-Barnet men.'

Regis's switch means the figure already needs updating, but that does not detract from a lovingly researched, well-written book. Stan Flashman's influence and its aftermath - last season's struggle to keep Barnet alive - figure prominently, but Fry dominates.

Ten years ago, in the early hours of Christmas Day, the police were called to Barnet after reports that a drunk was driving a tractor round in the dark. It was actually Fry, marking out the pitch. Words were exchanged. Policeman: 'Oi, you've done thousands of pounds worth of damage to this pitch, you maniac.' Fry: 'Of course I haven't. It's not worth two bob.' Policeman: 'Come this way, sir.' Fry: 'But I'm the manager.' Policeman: 'Yes, and I'm Father Christmas.'

*Published by Tiger Publications and available for pounds 6.99 (plus 75p p&p) from Hammicks Bookshop, 21 The Spires, Barnet EN5 5XY.

THE Hearts defenders Craig Levein and Graeme Hogg, who came to blows during a match against Raith and are now experiencing another form of togetherness on the transfer list, are by no means alone in their internal strife. Eric Cantona began crossing swords early in his career in similar vein. Back in 1987 he was heavily fined by his club Auxerre for punching his own goalkeeper, Bruno Martini. His victim was, of course, not stirred but shaken.

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THE murder of the Colombian Andres Escobar, apparently for his World Cup own goal, was not the lowest football-related violence could get. A man has been charged in Abidjan with the murder of an amateur player, who was stabbed as he prepared to take a penalty. His crime? He splashed the spectator with mud.

NICOLA AGER has won a football scholarship in the United States despite losing an eye in an accident. The 19-year-old from Kent so impressed a college in North Carolina that they awarded her a grant to study for a degree, specialising in sports medicine. The loss of her right eye last year when hit by a golf ball is no handicap, according to her mother Caroline. 'She bumps into things pushing a trolley round a supermarket, but she is excellent on the football field,' she said.

Team Spirit

THE quest for a footballing songs XI brought out some puns that deserved the sort of groans usually reserved for a missed penalty in a World Cup shoot-out. Naming Fine Young VENABLES as manager of a Spurs songs XI was a fine effort and did 'A solid (Billy) BONDS in your heart' come from a West Ham fan? The Wild Turkey bourbon goes to Alun Rees, of Stratford-upon-Avon, for the following (the last one stretched it to the limit but like Mark Hughes, Le Tissier should get in any line-up):

SONGS XI (4-3-3): Didn't we almost have it SOUTHALL?; More than a Phelan, The green, green McGRATHs of home, Sittin' on the RUDDOCK of the bay, You (IR)-WIN again; The McATEERs of a clown, Talk of the TOWNSEND, I could be HAGI; Blinded by the WRIGHT, It's so funny we don't talk COLLYMORE, In the LE TISSIER tonight.

NEXT WEEK: The return of Stats Life. Puns, jokes, chants, witty asides, funny lines, and damned funny lines always welcome, but this spot is for statistics only. Entries to Sports Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.