Who are you? We’re Barrow. Who?! You heard, Barrow


Once he’d left football, Vic Halom, a hero of 1973 and therefore a justifiably revered figure at Sunderland, was involved in a company called, if I recall correctly, something like Disaster Solutions or Disaster Management. It was one of those record-breaking bad Premier seasons of ours when I met him before an obligatory pounding at Old Trafford, and I remember wondering whether SAFC’s predicament was beyond even Vic’s powers to resolve. That’s a long way of introducing Andrew Steel*, Barrow fan and football blogger (check out Halftime Oranges), who reminds us that Vic also made a big impact at his club. Andrew also has soft spots for Liverpool and Inter MIlan, but Barrow come first and he will be part of the army of fans making their way cross-country for Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie, a dream for him, hostage to fortune for us …

Salut! Sunderland:What does it mean to you, as a fan, to have drawn Sunderland away? Better than Boro away, I imagine.

I was made up when I saw the draw, although I was a little cautious about getting ahead of myself as, to be honest, I didn’t think we’d beat Oxford.

Last year was amazing. I’d never thought I’d watch Barrow playing Premier League opposition in a competitive match. It’s the stuff of dreams, so twice in two seasons is just magical.

For me, this year’s draw was definitely bigger than Boro. With no disrespect to Boro, Sunderland is a bigger club with a better following. I’m very much looking forward my first trip to the Stadium of Light

But hey, come on! Apart from the Oxford replay, you’ve not had 2,000 for a home game all season, yet you may bring 9,000 to the Stadium of Light. What’s all that about?

Our attendances tend to fluctuate a bit through the season, depending on how we are doing. A poor run attendances can drop quite sharply and vice-versa when on a good run.

Personally, I think that the floating fans (who tend to drift to and from Holker Street dependent on form) possibly come expecting too much. Maybe thinking, because it’s non-league, we should be winning every game (possibly ignorant on the actual strength and difficulty of the league).

Maybe they’ve got used to the quality of football they can watch from the pub or their living room. They don’t want to pay £13 for a game on a wet and windy Tuesday night against the likes of Tamworth or Grays when they can stay in, in the warm, and watch Chelsea v Barcelona etc. Having seen some dross over the years, it’s sometimes hard to blame them but that’s not really what supporting a team is all about, is it?

Games like this are different, though. There’s a gloss on it. Everyone in the town gets swept up in the tide of anticipation and wants to be a part of something that doesn’t seem to happen to Barrow that often.

I know people who won’t come to watch Barrow in the league “because they’re crap” but will be going on Jan 2 “because it’s a massive game”.

You can’t blame them for wanting to go to this game but I wish even a small of those that make the trip to Sunderland would also come to the regular games rather than just tag along for the good bits.

And I bet you fancy your chances of sneaking a win. What’s this season’s ambition, and your realistic targets, since you seem a long way off the top of your league?

As you may have guessed from my first answer, I’m your typical pessimistic fan! Anything other than an utter pasting will do for me!

Seriously, though, I think we have a chance of snatching a draw if we play out of our skins and you underestimate us. Other than that, a committed performance and a goal, like last year, would send me home happy.

As for this season’s targets. I’d like to see us stay clear of relegation by more points than last year. We’ve got to build on last year and establish ourselves in what is a very tough league before we can think about the top end of the table.

Ten years ago we were right on the edge of going out of existence so I’m totally fine with the slow and steady approach rather than the approach of a few clubs in our league, which is more of a ‘lets chuck money at it and hope to God we go up or we’re bust’ kind of thing!

Are there any links between Barrow and Sunderland players/staff now or from the past?

I can’t think of many, off the top of my head, but the one that immediately jumps into focus is Vic Halom.

He was a member of Sunderland’s ’73 FA Cup winning side and, by all accounts, is very well regarded on Wearside. He won the NPL title as player/manager at Barrow in 83/84 season.

He is a big favourite among many of the slightly older fans for his brand of attractive, attacking, football.

After the late, great, legendary Ray Wilkie (who took us to Wembley and won the FA Trophy in 1990) Vic is regarded as one of our best managers.

Another member of that ’73 side, Micky Horswill played a handful of games for us in the ‘80’s. Nowhere near as successful as Halom, though.

Where will Barrow finish this season? Same question for Sunderland who will be this season’s Premier top four and relegated three in order, and who will win the Blue Square Premier?

We’ve been around 16th and 17th seemingly forever. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we finished there.

We’re on a decent run at the moment so if we can carry the momentum and not get side-tracked, as happened last year, there’s no reason we can’t finish a few places higher.

As for Sunderland, I think they’ll probably finish in the upper part of mid-table if they can sort out their bewildering inconsistency.

I think Oxford will win the BSP. They’ve been in great form this year and I can’t really see past them.

My Premier League standings are:

1 Chelsea

2 Manchester United

3 Arsenal

4 Liverpool (just)

Going down will be:

18 Hull

19 Wolves

20 Portsmouth

You’ve got a glory-seeking edge to your footballing passion. Explain your liking for Liverpool and Inter. If all three played in the same tournament, what would be your preferred order of final places?

Well, for want of a better analogy, if Barrow are my one-and-only wife, then Liverpool would be the fit girl at work that you try and chat up and cop off with.

She’s prettier than your wife, has a better house, richer (debatably, at the moment), lives in a posher part of town and even more men fancy her. But, when it comes down to it, she just isn’t your wife, is she? In a straight fight between the two you’d pick you wife every time, and then some.

I started following Liverpool around the same time as I started following Barrow, which was when I was old enough to know what football was. This was largely down to my Mam, as she is also a Liverpool fan, even though she’s a southerner (we can’t all be perfect, eh?).

I could easily have been a Manchester United (I shudder at the thought now), Arsenal, Nottingham Forrest or even an Accrington Stanley fan! It just so happened that the first game my Mam watched on TV was Liverpool v Borrusia Munchengladbach in the UEFA Cup final in ‘73 and red was her favourite colour (as her hometown team, Harrow Borough, also played in red)!

My connection to Inter is, thankfully, far simpler! I used to love watching Football Italia on Channel 4 in the 90’s and was watching it in the days of Bergomi, Ince, Pagliuca, Zanetti, Jugovic and Zamorano. I was watching when Ince scored that superb bicycle kick and from then on I followed them.

The final standings for a tournament have to be:

1 Barrow

2 Liverpool

3 Inter

You say your best football moments have been Barrow beating Stalybridge Celtic 1-0 in the Blue Square North Playoff final in 2008 and Liverpool in Istanbul 2005. Compare and contrast!

Where do I start? Both were great occasions and spectacles in their own right and in different ways.

Istanbul was incredible. I was watching it in a pub in Barrow and was ready to walk out at half time! Anyone who knows me will tell you how bad that would be for me to do as I NEVER leave games early. Not even when Barrow got tanked at home to Rushden & Diamonds 6-1 this season!

A quick phone call to my Mam quickly made me see sense, that and the bus was ages away. What happened after that was just unbelievable. How Dudek saved them shots from Shevchenko I still can’t fathom!

I was actually at the play-off final in what was the climax to a bizarre season. In November we were relegation fodder. In the drop-zone and were, to be blunt, crap! When we appointed Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss things just did a complete 360o!

With barely any change in the playing staff they started playing out of their skin and we went on a 20 game unbeaten run, up the table, finished in the play-off places and won them!

The final was just an extension to that magical season. It was a party-like atmosphere. Most of us couldn’t believe we were there. I can’t remember much of the game itself, except Matt Henney’s goal, right in front of me. I just remember jumping on my mate in jubilation.

After that I was just a bag of nerves, shaking like mad. When the final whistle blew the whole Barrow support just erupted. It was superb.

What do you think of Sunderland – the club, the fans, the area and the rivalry with Newcastle?

I’ve never been to Sunderland so I think it would probably be unfair for me to comment on the area.

As far as the club is concerned, I think Niall Quinn has done a good job in helping turn you into an established Premier League club from a ‘Yo-yo club’.

You have a sound manager, in Steve Bruce, and, from your point of view, I think you are progressing at a steady, if unspectacular, pace.

The fans are normally quite good and loyal but, certainly pre-Quinn, I noticed that attendances can be similar to ours in terms of fluctuation. When the team is perhaps not doing as well as they could be and quite a few empty seats and be spotted around the SoL. But I suppose that’s to be expected when football costs so much for the fans these days.

I think that the rivalry is great. I always try and watch the Tyne-Wear derby because it’s always going to be a bit tasty.

The Eduardo question: you need three points from the last game to clinch the Blue Square Premier League title. In the last second, Simon Spender goes down in the box. Everyone except the ref knows he dived. You win with the resulting penalty. You take it gladly, you take it guiltily or you’re so ashamed you almost wish you’d lost out?

Honestly, I would take it in an instant.

Anyone who says they wouldn’t is a liar.

After the game or after we scored the penalty, I would turn to may mate and say “That wasn’t a penalty!” before letting out a relived/slightly guilty sigh and thinking we were lucky but I’d still take it.

It wouldn’t spoil the celebrations, put it that way!

Obviously, if the boot was on the other foot, I’d be livid but, then again, we’ve been on the end of some atrocious decisions in the past so getting them going for you is not something you are going to complain about.

Especially if it’s the difference between getting back into the league.

Should Ngog, Drogba, Henry and plenty of A N Others be added to that question and was it unfair to suggest Mr Spender would ever dive?

Yes! Very unfair! Spender is a consummate professional! Although… given the circumstances… Haha.

If you were to add Ngog, Drogba, Ronaldo etc to the question it would be the longest question in history. Probably never-ending.

You’d need the whole Juventus squad, backroom staff and board from 2004-2006 in there for starters!

Club v country. Who wins for you and why (specifying which club, of course).

Club. Every time. Barrow. Every time. That’s not to say I don’t support England, but given the choice of Barrow getting back into the league or England winning the World Cup this summer I’d take league football.

You’ll be there on Jan 2. What will be the score?

My head says 3-1 to Sunderland. My heart says 2-1… to Sunderland!

Nah, honestly, deep down I believe we could snatch a draw but realistically I’m going for a Sunderland win.

As a young journalist, you’ll understand the lazy older hack’s question: what did I forget that you really wanted to be asked?

“Would you like a job?” Would be probably the best! From a purely personal point of view, of course!

* Andrew Steel on Andrew Steel: I recently graduated from university with a degree in journalism. I have been a Barrow supporter for as long as I can remember. Probably somewhat thrust upon me by my father. I missed out on going to our finest moment at Wembley in 1990, due to being only two. My parents wouldn’t take me. Something for which I still hold a grudge.

My first game came not long after, at a friendly against Manchester City. Since then I have been a regular at Holker Street for over 18 years and have attended the majority of home games over that time, with the exception of the past three years due to being at university.

During my time as a fan we have: been mediocre; won the UniBond; been kicked out of the Conference the following season; nearly vanished all together that same pre-season; came back from the dead under our saviour chairman Brian Keen; been utterly crap under manager Phil Wilson and turned around completely under Daz & Dave – and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

As you may guess from my degree, I enjoy writing articles and stories on football, especially analytical pieces and stories where I can put a bit of humour into it.

I write a football blog, which you can read at http://halftime-oranges.blogspot.com, where I try and write about the current football stories with a plausibly humorous delivery.

Colin Randall

2 thoughts on “Who are you? We’re Barrow. Who?! You heard, Barrow”

  1. Great to hear the thoughts of a pasionate fan of a non-league side, although I am old enough to remember when Barrow played the likes of Darlington, Hartlepool, Halifax, Southport etc. in the old 4th Division. I get to a fair amount of non league footy and it brings back memories of what following your home town club was like 40 or more years ago.

    As for the floating fan. That happens to any side facing a big game. I can’t knock it. The way that a community can be united by their local side, the excitement generated and the general feel good factor are there to be savoured. Having said that it still galls that the season we got to the play off final against Charlton, I failed to get a ticket for Wembley because I could neither queue up at the ground, nor could I ring the ticket office because of work commitments. And that in a season when despite living 200 miles from the SOL I had seen Sunderland 42 times that season. I shall be there tomorrow but after some of the stuff I have seen this season I’d bet I’m more pessimistic than Andrew will be going into the ground.

    Have a good day!

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