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Plenty of characters left in the game

Gavin Strachan | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Hi hope you are all well.

Throughout the course of my career I have been lucky enough to come across some incredible characters. There is a myth that all these characters are gone from the game, but I like to think that some of them are - to an extent - merely hidden away in the lower reaches of the leagues. In the coming weeks I will attempt to unveil one or two.
Barry Fry is one character who could never be hidden away. I have a lot of time for Barry. Although he might not be everybody's cup of tea one thing is certain; what you see is what you get and I think in this day and age that is very refreshing.

Barry Fry

I owe Barry a lot; in fact I would go so far as to say that he is one of the reasons that I am still playing league football. I was stuck in a bit of a rut at Hartlepool (even though I had a great time there) and could not get in the side. Hartlepool had said that I was free to find another club, which to some might sound great in this post- Bosman era that we live in whereby freedom to move is supposed to mean more options for the player. It is not quite so great when there are no clubs wanting your services and you are not particularly wanted by your current employers!
This is where Barry Fry came in and true to form for Baz it was the strangest transfer I had ever seen or been involved in. It was late December and Hartlepool were playing Peterborough at Victoria Park. I had not been selected in the sixteen so I was up in the boxes sulking with the other players who had been left out. Next minute there was a knock at the door and Chris Turner (Hartlepool's director of sport) told me that Barry Fry wanted a word.
I knew Baz previously so I did all the usual small talk. Then he said "so do you fancy signing for us on loan, Hartlepool have given it the all clear." I had a quick think and said "yes", so at half time we cleared all the people out of an executive box (very embarrassing) and signed the loan papers there and then.
Needless to say it was a very strange day. I left home in the morning saying to my wife that I did not think I would be involved and then returned at night telling her that I had signed for another club!
These are good days for everybody at London Road with the money of chairman Darragh MacAnthony and the ability of their manager Darren Ferguson who I rate as high as any other manager I have worked with. However it is worth noting that the club would not be where it is today without Barry Fry. He has put everything into that club both financially and emotionally and there were many occasions when it looked as though Posh would fold but Barry always found a way to keep it going.
I always try to treat people as I find them but in this profession that can be quite difficult because of all the media coverage that certain individuals receive so whether you mean to or not you have pre-conceptions about them. A case in point being when John Hartson joined us at Coventry. I remember my reaction being one of "I hope he doesn't use my head as a football, like he did Berkovic" but upon actually meeting him when he arrived at Coventry's Ryton training ground it was immediately clear that he was actually a very nice bloke.

John Hartson at Coventry City
I also have to say that John was one of the best players I have ever played with. It is a slightly overused terminology (so I am going to use it again!) but he really did have great feet for a big man. He was a great asset for any team he played with because you knew that when the ball went up to him, it was going to stick. A fact that can sometimes be overlooked but is so important as a starting point for attacks.
He was also a massive help to the younger lads in the squad at the time. I personally learned a lot from him, probably not so much in terms of looking after your body (only joking, big man) but in terms of the type of passes a midfield player needs to make to a striker. For example the weight of pass into your striker and trying to keep your pass "safe side" of a defender.


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