Club nickname: Town, Linnets or Dragons.
Ground: Jenner Park (2,000 capacity).
Current League: Welsh League Division One (Second tier).
Manager: Gavin Chesterfield.
Welsh Premier League (1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003).
Welsh League Division One (1926-27, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1986-87, 1988-89 and 1993-94).
Welsh Cup (1954–55, 1993–94, 1996–97, 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2002–03).
League of Wales Cup (1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–2000)
FAW Premier Cup (1998-99)
FAW Trophy (1993–94)
Welsh League Cup (1934–35, 1946–47, 1978–79, 1982–83, 1986–87 and 1993–94).
Most notable former player: Alan Curtis.
What if I asked you which team has 6 Welsh Cups and 7 Welsh Premier League titles to their name, you’d probably hazard a guess at TNS right? And you’d probably never guess the right answer as the correct team has gradually disappeared further and further from the spotlight. Barry Town were once the dominant side within Welsh football, much like TNS are now, and were the first fully professional team in the WPL. So where did it all go wrong?
The early years
Barry’s history dates back to 1892 when they played under the name Barry and Cadoxton District and by the early 1900’s changed to being Barry AFC, playing in the Southern League, which they won in 1920-21. Incredibly, at the end of the 1920s, a huge crowd of 6,000 at Upton Park saw Barry beat Dagenham 1–0 to progress to the second round of the FA Cup; before losing to Brighton & Hove Albion.
In the 1949–50 season, Barry’s home ground, Jenner Park, became one of the first grounds in the country to introduce floodlights. In May 1955, following a 1–1 draw at the Racecourse in Wrexham, Barry beat Chester City 4–3 at Ninian Park to lift the Welsh Cup for the first time.
The 60’s and 70’s
Due to chairman John Bailey’s business interest overseas, an influx of Scandinavian players became present at Jenner Park during the late 50’s/early 60’s, most notably, Bengt ‘Folet’ Berndtsson; a member of the Sweden squad that reached the final of the 1958 World Cup. This then led to Barry playing matches overseas too as they played three games in Malta in 1960 against Sliema Wanderers, Hibernians and Valletta that all ended in draws.
The 1960s and 70s are most fondly remembered for the now famous players that pulled on the Barry shirt. Among them were prolific goalscorers Ken Gully and Clive Ayres, brothers John and Dickie Batt, long-serving Bobby Smith and Ashley Griffiths, and tall defender Mike Cosslett; who is now a member of the club’s coaching staff.
In 1982, Barry left the Southern League, instead focusing on Welsh League competitions and went on to win six Welsh League titles before the decade’s end, with striker Steve Williams being a huge part of the clubs success.
The 90’s – The glory years.
The founding of the League of Wales (now Welsh Premier League) in 1992 saw Barry and eight other teams (Newport, Merthyr, Colwyn Bay, Bangor City, Caernarfon Town, Newtown and Rhyl) thrown out of the English pyramid system in order to compete in the Welsh Leagues. This would eventually turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to the club.
1992-2002 would spark the side’s most successful period, as they earned immediate promotion to the top flight and a unique quadruple of the Welsh League Championship title, the Welsh League Cup, the FAW Trophy and the Welsh Cup. The latter was Barry’s most famous achievement as they managed a giant killing upset over Cardiff City in front of 16,000 spectators at the old National Stadium. Their reward for winning the Welsh Cup was a European Cup Winners Cup tie against Žalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania.
After one season in the Wales’ top flight, Barry opted to become the league’s first fully professional club and thereafter, won their first league championship in 1995–96.1996 also saw the club create history as the first Welsh side to progress beyond the opening round of a European competition.After defeating Dinaburg FC (now defunct) of Latvia, Barry beat Hungarian side Budapest Vasutas in an epic night at Jenner Park. Despite trailing 3–1 from the away leg, the Welsh side stormed to a victory in the return match by the same score-line, and then won a penalty shoot-out 4–2. They then went on to crash out of the cup to Aberdeen of Scotland in the next round on the away goals rule after the battle had ended at 3-3 over two legs.
On the domestic side of things, Barry Town became almost unbeatable, clinching a treble made up of the League of Wales Championship title, the Welsh League Cup and the Welsh Cup. The championship was claimed with a record (which stood as the best throughout Europe) of 105 points and a goal difference of more than +100. Then, from March of 1997, Barry went 51 matches without tasting a single defeat in a league fixture, even better than Arsenal’s invincibles!
Having been pipped to the title in the 1999/2000 season by the emerging and now ever dominant TNS, Barry would regain their crown in the following campaign. All the while, they were facing European battles with the likes of Dynamo Kiev in a match that featured a young Andriy Shevchenko at Jenner Park (little did they know he’d go on to such great things at the time!). In the 2000/2001 season, Barry notably became the first League of Wales team to win a Champions League tie, when they defeated Azerbaijani champions, FC Shamkir to set up a tie with Portuguese giants Porto. They were humiliated 8-0 in the first leg, with a certain midfielder named Deco bagging three goals.
However, in the second leg, the little Welsh side stunned Porto as they won 3-1 at Jenner Park, with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho and Helder Postiga, who were both youth players at the time, playing for Porto.
2002 and beyond -Turmoil.
After chairperson and backer Paula O’ Halloran stood aside, former Scarborough official Kevin Green came in as the club’s Chief Executive but his varying initiatives failed to stop the club’s decline. In one move that garnered significant press coverage, Green would recruit ex-footballer and celebrity John Fashanu as the club’s high-profile chairman in the winter of 2002. Many fans and those who loved the club had hoped that Fash’s appointment would be the move that Barry Town needed in order to get back on it’s feet, but this was not the case, in fact it was almost the total opposite. Mention Fashanu’s name down when you’re in Barry Town and I’d imagine you’d get a hiding. The former Wimbledon striker promised Chinese and African TV deals for the club, as well as the signings of a few Nigerian players, but no such deals sufficed and the media coverage that the club was getting was the only good thing that was occurring at this stage as they fell into a perilous financial state. Fashanu subsequently decided to do a runner after success on “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” saw him attain new-found popularity, leaving Barry in a worse situation that when he had first arrived.
In the summer of 2003, the club went into administration and the professional squad would quickly disintegrate and within a month Barry had gone from winning a match in Europe to losing 8–0 at Caernarfon Town. 2003/2004 was a particularly difficult season, with champions Barry’s first league win not coming until February 2004 when they beat fellow strugglers Welshpool Town 5–4 with a 98th-minute winning penalty. Financial struggles ensued for the club and they were relegated to Welsh League Division One at the end of that season. By the end of the 2005/2006 season, Barry Town had been relegated to their lowest-ever league status and it was fair to say that the future appeared bleak for Welsh football’s fallen giant.
2007 – present day – Road to recovery.
Roots of recovery began to grow in 2007, with the appointment of new manager Gavin Chesterfield. Chesterfield led Barry to promotion in 2008, with the hope that a winning run of form in the second tier would see the club’s dwindling support return. After stumbling early on, Barry enjoyed a 21-match unbeaten streak and finished the season a credible third. In 2010, despite continuous strife behind the scenes, the Stand Up For Barry campaign launched and utilised new social media platforms such as Twitter to spread news of the club’s plight with a wider online audience. The resulting support from across the football community proved an invaluable asset as supporters strived to keep the club alive.
By now, the club is still undergoing construction in terms of rebuilding a succesful squad again and truth one doubts that there will ever be such a team as the one that existed in the nineties/early 2000’s. However, the fans continue to keep their club alive and running and by today, the club competes at senior, development, youth and junior levels, along with various ladies’ teams and pan disability teams in the over and under-16 age groups. The spirit of the community and the loyalty and passion of the supporters’ has kept the club alive and has proved to corrupt owners that you cannot always kill off a football team.
Barry Town will always have their history and they will always have those memorable nights at Jenner Park. If you go there now, there are only echoes of what used to be, but I for one hope that one day soon we shall see the club back where they belong, competing in the Welsh Premier League.
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