It was standing room only at Monday night’s bi monthly members meeting held at the Lager Club. The first half of the meeting consisted of an audience with Barry Horne with Trust business taking up the second half.
The meeting began with a q and a session with Wrexham FC director Barry Horne hosted by Trust Chairman Peter Jones. Barry entertained the audience with a fascinating account of his career as a professional footballer, chairman of the PFA and broadcaster as well as his role on the club board.
Brought up in Flintshire, his talent as a footballer resulted in Barry playing for Flintshire and Deeside Schools and he was a contemporary of Ian Rush.
Barry humorously described his tendency to make what seemed like “stupid” career decisions at the time but few listening could doubt how correct they turned out in the end.
Despite attracting the attention of professional clubs, Barry was persuaded to stay on at school and then obtain a first class honours degree in chemistry at Liverpool Uni before being offered a contract by Bobby Roberts - after playing against Wrexham for Rhyl. He left his post graduate studies to join Wrexham.
He may have kicked off his pro career later than most but Barry soon made up for lost time and began an eventful rise to the top of his profession. He made his debut for the Robins in 1984 and played in almost every game of his debut season. Barry was to play a central role in Wrexham’s European adventures of the mid-80s. Culminating in the never to be forgotten victory over the mighty FC Porto when his late goal clinched the tie for Wrexham. Barry revealed that the team were locked in the dressing room afterwards until the disgruntled home fans had dispersed and celebrated with the complimentary bottles of port left by their hosts. Needless to say Barry has never been able to face a glass of port since! Other memorable matches against Roma followed and subsequent revelations about match fixing in Italy have made Barry question some of the “odd” decisions against us in the away leg.
South Coast Rivals
After three years at the Racecourse, Barry’s performances attracted the attention of clubs higher up the pyramid. He came close to joining Gillingham but eventually was sold to Portsmouth for £60,000 under their World Cup winning manager Alan Ball- where he soon became player of the season.
International recognition soon followed and Mike England gave him the first of his 59 Welsh caps (many as skipper) in 1987 aged 25. In 1989 Barry was sold for £750,000 to arch rivals Southampton and recalls his name being met with complete silence when the announcer introduced him to Saints fans on his debut! Barry was part of an illustrious side in the top flight playing alongside the likes of Shearer, Le Tissier and Jimmy Case (who Barry described as one of the best midfielders he played with or against - as well as one of the “most effectively dirty players”!). A change of manager led to the dismantling of that side and Barry left the audience in no doubt about how he rated that particular manager and a certain Welsh team manager as well!
Barry described his next transfer which could easily have been to Spurs as Terry Venables was keen to sign him. Despite Tottenham’s attractive offer, Barry’s mind was soon made up when Howard Kendall offered him the chance to join Everton- the club he had supported as a boy. Without an agent, Barry sealed the deal in an hour and was to go on to write his name in the Goodison history books. He scored Everton’s first goal in the newly formed Premier League and recalls being given the hairdryer treatment by Kendall after scoring early in his Everton career and then informing the press that he wasn’t a goal scorer and it would be a long time before they saw another from him. Despite Kendall’s displeasure at such a comment, Barry was true to his word and didn’t score again for another two years!
Barry recalled that players didn’t really appreciate how the Premier League would change the face of football but Evertonians certainly appreciated Barry’s goal in their crucial win over Wimbledon-which saw them retain their top flight status on the final day of the 1993–94 season.
Everton were later to win the FA Cup after defeating an illustrious Man Utd side. Barry and his teammates were the last to win silverware for the Toffeemen.
Barry’s career next took him to Birmingham and he was reminded that he was on the receiving end of a Cup giant killing when City were defeated at home by a Wrexham side inspired by Brian Hughes- who was shortly to be signed for City by Trevor Francis. Barry recalls trying to rejoin Everton as player coach only to find that Joe Royle (the best manager he played under) had been sacked. His efforts were not appreciated by Francis who made him train with the kids!
Terry Yorath’s Huddersfield next came calling and Barry was immediately made captain but was also told that he had to break the news to the existing skipper who was the imposing Andy Morrison!
At the age of 38, Barry returned to the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday before his career took him to Kidderminster (he played in their first League match) as well as Walsall and Belper Town. Barry admitted that he probably should have hung his boots up earlier. He modestly described his attributes as being “ultra-fit” and having a “high pain threshold”. When a non-league opponent (and Liverpool fan) goaded him about his allegiance to Everton and he couldn’t be bothered to “kick him back”, Barry knew it was time to quit!
Barry revealed that he had been invited to apply for the manager’s job at Wrexham which eventually went to Denis Smith.
Barry gave a fascinating insight into a dispute that almost led to a players strike when he was Chairman of the PFA arising out of their determination to ensure players received a fair share of TV revenue. He emphasised the support they received from Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith at that time. And he bemoaned the fact that the riches earned by the top players now (as well as the influx of foreign stars and the power of the Premier League) meant that the PFA was no longer as effective at protecting players further down the pyramid.
When asked about his time with Wales and their future chances of success, Barry recalled the heart wrenching defeat to Romania in 1994 when they almost qualified for the World Cup in the USA. He said that Wales needed a centre half (why wouldn’t Ryan Shawcross sign up?) and a centreforward. But the forthcoming Euros and the expanded numbers meant “this was as good a chance to qualify as any”.
Barry commented on how professional he had found colleagues at Sky TV for whom he did freelance commentary work and described his job as a teacher which provided the flexibility to do his other work including his directorship at Wrexham.
Return to the Racecourse
Barry went on to describe his current involvement with the Club after having initially been invited to speak at a meeting prior to the fans takeover. He had been delighted to accept the offer to join the Football Club board. He said “a huge amount of work” had gone on behind the scenes” in the subsequent two years “which didn’t make the papers”. He said he “wished everyone could see the hard work put in by the club and trust boards” and “if there was a more hardworking, professional and honest board” he would “like to see it”.
Barry said “everything was focused on getting back into the football league” and getting the best team we could out onto the pitch which was the “third of the iceberg that people could see”. More work was needed. He brought football experience to the Board; the first two years had been “firefighting” now “we were concentrating on spotting younger upcoming talent from the lower leagues and youngsters looking to resurrect their careers”. He was actively involved with others doing this and, whilst the manager had the final say, they were building relationships with bigger clubs in the region. Barry described the recent signing of Elliott Durrell who was very enthusiastic and had given up a job to turn full time -but not every part time player was as ambitious.
When asked about signing a player who wanted to remain part time he said that was “unlikely” as we “couldn’t mix and match” which would make training difficult.
In answer to questions, Barry said the best players he had faced included Hagi, Scifo, Van Basten and Gullit -whilst Bryan Robson was the most difficult to play against.
The meeting gave Barry a warm round of applause for an entertaining and informative insight into his varied and successful career in football to date -which all Wrexham fans dearly hope will continue to be as successful in the future.
The second part of the meeting was taken up with Trust business with Trust board members in attendance.
Chairman Peter Jones informed members about an e petition which would be circulated shortly about the problems faced by Coventry City supporters and the ownership of their club -which had “relocated” to Northampton. Members were asked to consider signing the e petition.
Community Shares stood at £156,930 which does not take into account the cost of the club shop renovation which was c£73,500 There are currently 51 individuals who are Life Members of WST having invested £1000 or more.
Trust Board member Geoff Scott informed members of forthcoming fundraising events.
There will be a Sports Quiz on 7 March sponsored by the Coop. Teams of 4 at £10 per team. All were invited.
The sponsored parachute jump will take place on 18 April with several club and trust board members taking the plunge. A Just Giving site will be set up – details to follow.
The Player of the Season dinner will take place at Lion Quays on 27 April.
With the kind agreement of Wayne at the Turf, WST will have access to 30 car park spaces in the Turf Car Park on match days at £3 per car. All proceeds to the Trust commencing with the Barnet game. Volunteers were sought to “man” the car park.
This year’s Snowdon walk take on a different format in that 150 other supporters groups will be invited to join 150 Wrexham fans for the climb to the summit.
The forthcoming concert with The Sweet at Lion Quays was now sold out.
The “Brian Hughes evening” at the Centenary Club was not, despite the use of the club badge, anything to do with the Club or Trust and was a private enterprise.
Trust Board member Terry Stott updated the meeting about the Trust’s community work which was separate from that of the Racecourse Community Foundation. Our work with the Alzheimer’s Society was growing and it was likely that we will need to train more volunteers to attend monthly meetings to “talk football” with those suffering from Alzheimer’s. The Disabled Supporters Association’s work had resulted in reduced prices for wheelchair users and work was ongoing to try to improve their viewing position within the MRS.
Trust Board member Huw Davies addressed the meeting about membership. A new batch of cards will be distributed shortly. Work was ongoing with a view to producing a dual purpose club/trust membership card doubling as a season ticket. Volunteers were helping administer the membership which was challenging. Membership numbers were hovering around the 3000 mark but as individual memberships came up for renewal the total number would fall until that member renewed. It was agreed that renewing on line was not straightforward but members could also do so at the club and trust shops. If members paid by standing order then renewal would occur automatically and this would help a great deal.
Co-opted Trust Board member Robin Wiggs mentioned his role as our communications lead including developing the weekly column in the Leader, press releases, input to the supporters direct website, Wrexham.com and newspapers. There had been good coverage of the club shop opening and the “bring a tin” collection for the food bank. The Calon FM show, Dragonheart (“made by the fans for the fans”) was mentioned and could be accessed online. More volunteers were needed to present and produce. We were trying to improve the use of the Welsh language around the Club and within the Trust. The 150th anniversary was a great opportunity to sell the Wrexham story.
Communication is a two way process and we needed members to communicate their ideas to the Board.
Robin explained that the Trust Board was busy compiling a draft strategic plan. Having secured our initial aim of saving and owning club we needed a strategic plan setting out the next part of our journey – helping the club prosper and thrive. To builds on our aims and objectives. We should be ambitious, and build on our success. To provide a secure, stable and sustainable business off the pitch, as a platform for success on the pitch. Our aims include playing football at the highest possible level and giving strategic direction to the Club and its Operational Board. It will reflect a much closer relationship to fans and customers between the Trust and Club.
Our Key themes will be to be recognised as successful in:
Developing Trust Ownership – in the Club and wider fans issues
Fostering financial security and sustainability – in our own and in Club finances
Building a model community club – reflecting the communities we come from and we support.
This will require detailed action plans for a range of objectives in each area and involve a restructure of the Trust Board. We will work up the detail over the next 2-3 months, and present to the AGM in June with regular updates to members on progress over the year.
Co-opted Board member and treasurer Keith Roberts provided an update about finances. Income for 2013 was £119K of which £62K was membership fees. Expenditure amounted to £32K with a profit of £87K. Working Capital stood at £202K.
Questions from the Floor
Questions from the floor included a question about Gold bond income which was available in the presentation made at the Club AGM which was on the website.
A member raised the issue of poor and sometimes inaccurate coverage by BBC Wales. This was acknowledged and efforts were made to communicate with all aspects of the media.
A member raised the question of criticism of the management by some fans on social networking sites and whether the Board should respond. Trust and Club Board member Spencer Harris replied by stating it was not appropriate to make statements publically about the manager and that the club had supported the manager by providing a competitive budget and exceeding it earlier this season due to injuries. Two new players had come in during the January transfer window that it is believed will improve the squad. There had been some successes under the current management team e.g. when we reached 98 points, narrowly missing promotion, reaching play offs, FAT win etc. Having achieved this in those two seasons the manager deserved supporting this season - which we have done. The proper way of operating for the Board is to discuss the things with the manager and then when decisions have been made communicate with everyone else.
A member, who recalled derby matches in the past not being subject to so many restrictions, asked about the arrangements for the Chester match -which had attracted criticism from some fans. Peter Jones replied by saying that the away match will be “a bubble” game. It was agreed before the game at the Racecourse that, whatever arrangements were implemented for Chester fans, would be repeated when we travelled there. They were at the insistence of the police and what trouble there had been took place inside the ground. It was disappointing and many did not believe that such high levels of security were necessary.
The meeting ended at 0955
WST Independent Secretary