Football Non-League: Beck back to advise Barrow

Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
BARROW, IN a mess on and off the field, have turned to the controversial talents of John Beck in their quest to keep the place in the Football Conference they won last May.

Last season's UniBond League champions, already without a chairman, discarded their manager as well last Saturday evening when they sacked Owen Brown - despite that afternoon's 2-1 home win over Welling which lifted them four points and places clear of the relegation zone.

Beck, the former Cambridge United, Preston and Lincoln City manager, made his name as an advocate of the long-ball game and a strict disciplinarian. Sacked by Lincoln in March last year, he is now working full-time as a players' agent.

Beck's successor at Lincoln, Shane Westley, took the Imps to promotion from the Nationwide League Third Division last season but was himself sacked in November when the Sincil Bank chairman, John Reames, decided he would take charge of the team himself. Now Westley and Beck are together again, with the former appointed manager of Barrow and the latter working as a consultant.

"Shane is the manager and I'm there in an advisory capacity as a consultant until the end of the season," Beck said. "Shane lives in Lincoln and he will commute until the end of the season and then we'll review the situation and consider relocating. Our aim is to survive in the Conference and I think our chances are 50-50 at the moment. They did tremendously well to get promoted last season and the worst thing that could happen is to come straight back down again."

Barrow have been in turmoil since early last month when their chairman and major backer, Stephen Vaughan, resigned following the start of an on-going fraud squad investigation into a share issue made by the club in October.

The police probe is not the only financial crisis facing the Cumbrian club: on Monday they face a winding-up order in court in Barrow over an alleged pounds 41,000 debt to a construction company for ground improvements carried out at Holker Street last summer.

To add to their woes, a club director, Pat Brewer, who is also Barrow's secretary, was suspended last weekend pending an investigation into alleged irregularities in players' contracts. She has subsequently resigned from the board. Another director, Rick Lucas, a nightclub manager, has also quit the board after declaring himself "deeply unhappy with the way the club is being run".

Brown, who was also a director, was sacked as manager, according to the acting chairman Phil Cowing, because "he was asked to reduce the wage bill considerably and he made no attempt to do that. The disciplinary record also had to improve because of a suspended pounds 5,000 Football Association fine which is hanging over the club from last season. In fact, it has got worse."

An angry Brown, a former Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United striker, told local newspaper reporters: "I feel I have been shafted big-time. I'm gutted. I feel I've managed the side this season with my hands tied behind my back."

Claiming that he is owed wages and bonuses, and that he has two-and-a- half years of a three-year contract to be settled, Brown added: "I'm going to sue them for what I am owed." However, Cowing has denied the existence of a three-year contract.

In the shadow of all this chaos, Westley and Beck must try to prepare the team for tomorrow's Conference fixture at Yeovil - if they get there. This week Cowing was pleading for sponsors to assist with the expenses involved in the long trip to Somerset. "We need people to get behind us at the moment," the acting chairman declared. He can say that again.

n The FA's Sanctions and Regulations committee has unanimously rejected a proposal by the Conference to form a second division.