One of the greatest football memories I have is of Wembley on the 19th May 1990.
This was when Barrow AFC reached the FA Trophy Final, where they beat Leek Town 3-nil.

Barrow AFC - FA Trophy winners 1990

…and now 20 25 years later they’ll be back there again. But this time it’s “Barra” who’ll be the underdogs.
[Back then Barrow were from the Conference and Leek were in the Northern Premier League – on Sat May 8th it’ll be AFC (who skirted with relegation) taking on Stevenage, the reigning Blue Square Prem League champions.]

2015 Update: They won !

– Before I get to this year’s final, some memories of 1990…

This post may turn into a long meandering one so I’ve split it up into sections.
You might want to click/scroll down to find the bits that may interest you.

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In the early 80’s because of Thatcher and the Tories I moved around trying to find work. (I can’t believe that people are actually considering voting them in again, they nearly destroyed the country the last time and there’s a danger that they’ll do it again.) Eventually I found myself in Barrow-In-Furness and working at Vickers.

(Anecdote) This was the early 80’s and because of Thatcher (milk and then job snatcher) and her lover Ronny Reagan and the cold war there was a real threat of the nukes being dropped. Everybody, including me, joined CND and went on the marches. Also because of this nuclear proliferation there was plenty of jobs going in “the yard”. Desperate for work I applied and got an interview.
On the big day I put on something that resembled a suit and went to meet the Head Foreman.   I don’t know now if I did it on purpose or because I was still young and naive back then, but afterwards I realised that I went into this interview wearing an earring. An earring that was a CND logo. I don’t know/can’t remember if the Head Foreman didn’t see or didn’t care, but it didn’t matter. He still gave me the job. Obviously I let my CND membership lapse and there I was, young, free, single and earning.
Went to the Grain & Grape (aka the Groan & Grope) and Scorpio 1 every weekend.

Whilst working in the yard a workmate told me about this new manager who just took over at Barrow AFC, he’s pretty decent, you should take a look.

So I went and I ended up following the team all over the place – Which was made slightly easier for me when Barrow were relegated to the Northern Premier League. This meant no really long road trips, the away games were no further south than Staffordshire.

A few years later I packed in my job and not long after I was on the move again, once again looking for work.
I ended up down south in the very posh town of Henley-On-Thames. But I never forgot about Barrow AFC and kept a check every week for their results.

In 1989-1990 season they were established back in the Vauxhall Conference and on an FA Trophy run. Now if you remember back then when there was no interweb and the only way to find out the scores was from watching Final Score (but the Non-League wasn’t given much if any coverage) or scanning the Sunday papers the next day. Because of this it was difficult for me to follow their trophy progress but thankfully (and expensively) there was the Barrow AFC Clubcall.

You remember those premium rate phone numbers ? 0898… etc, etc.
It was here in April of 1990 on the communal phone going through a few phonecards listening to Russell Dodd’s commentary away at Colne Dynamoes. The phone commentary wasn’t live, there was a 15 minute delay on it and at 5.15pm that Saturday tea-time after spending 20 quid on cards I heard the final whistle blow and Barrow AFC were in the FA Trophy Final.
I had to go to work that evening and I walked around the entire time in a daze, I remember nothing.

I still had my mate back in Barrow (the one who originally suggested that I go and watch them) and he got a ticket for me.

“I’ll see you down there,” he said. “Meet us at the front about an hour before.”

At Wembley. Stadium. The 70,000 seater stadium.
As luck would have it I found him straight away.

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I distinctly remember getting on the London Underground (at Paddington) and seeing carriages full of Barrowvians who were also making their way to Wembley. They must have stayed in London overnight.
These fans stood out because of the unofficial “uniform” that everybody wore. If they didn’t have an AFC replica shirt on they were instead wearing some sort of white top. All of them in blue jeans and a white shirt. As I was too. Uncanny co-ordination that was.

There were about 13,000 who came down from Barrow, I was told that the shops on Dalton Road were empty, some of them closed. It was a ghost town.

Those of you who’ve been to Wembley will know that there is so much to take in. Cursing myself now because I didn’t think to take a camera. None of us did though because we weren’t there for the occasion, we were there for the football.

At the beginning there were the usual nerves by both teams, but it didn’t take long for Barrow to get into their rhythm and Kenny Gordon was in and scored his first with a header. By half-time it was still that that single goal that separated them. Still not a certainty, needed another to settle it, don’t want them to get one back.

Then 12 minutes after the break Cowps (known locally as “God”) got the 2nd. Again with a header.

By this time we were sitting there pinching ourselves that this was actually happening when from a Kenny Lowe free kick, Gordon stole in and got the third. Another with his head*
Side question: Is this the first time that a team has won at Wembley with all three goals being from a header ?

Eventually the final whistle blew and Barrow had won the cup !
I was sitting to the left of the posh nobs (plus Graham Kelly) in the Royal Box and could just about see the top of the trophy being lifted.

It was a fantastic experience, a dream that I never thought I’d ever see come true. It was thanks to the late, great Ray Wilkie [speaking at the end of the video below].
Sadly I have to tell you that he died two years after this, but has never been forgotten.
Barrow honoured the man who gave me such great memories by naming the road behind Holker Street – and the Main Stand, after him.


Highlights from the game:

Fast forward to now:

Spooky with the music chosen in the above clip because in celebration of reaching Wembley again, the Barrow AFC squad have recorded and released a re-worded version of The Farm’s All Together Now, with the profits going to a local charity.

“Barrow AFC players are the talk of the town, not only because of their impending game against Stevenage Borough at Wembley but because their single “All Together Now for Barrow AFC” has gone to press ahead of its release on Saturday 1st May just a week before their FA Trophy final at Wembley on 8th May.

The cover of the single
The single, which is now available at www.thebay.co.uk, is their own version of The Farm’s “All Together Now” and was recorded at Radio Station The Bay on 16th April. All profits are going to St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston.

The song, re-written by The Bay’s Sports editor Dave Salmon, is Barrow oriented and has generated much excitement in the Furness Peninsula ahead of the big game on 8th May. Dave Salmon commented: “We chose the song because it’s a great anthem with a catchy chorus that hopefully Bluebirds fans will be chanting on May 8th and beyond!” …

…Passions are running high about the song and of course the forthcoming Wembley game, so much so that there is a now an independent Facebook campaign to get the song into the Top 40! The campaign has so far attracted nearly 800 members and is growing daily…

… It is hoped that the limited release CD single will reach its fundraising target of £15,000 for St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston.

The only way to hear the full song or watch the accompanying video is by buying the CD single, but as mentioned it is for a good cause. – There is a short clip with the the making of the song, plus there’s another Facebook group with info about the single.

To the music from back just before then:

Some self indulgence here because there isn’t a footie link to the above (although there could be some AFC supporters in the bands), the main reason for their inclusion here is because all of the following groups were all from Barrow and were around at the time that I was there.

Back then I was a frustrated/failed musician, so I became a DJ. At the time I played the music from the charts but I kept up with the local indie music scene.

I’ll start with the “biggest” band, or at least one you may have heard of…

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It is because of the wonderful inventions of You Tube and Facebook that has enabled me to get back in touch and to remind me of the music from Barrow from the early/mid 80’s. To this end I found out that the seminal band who were involved with and influenced others reformed for one gig in December last year (2009). It doesn’t look like there’s anything else additional to that, ah well, at least there’s something. I found this out via The Tier Garden Facebook Page. Plus I was able to see some old photographs and hear some of their music again.

In my possession is the one single that I still have from them. It was the one that got them their highest exposure and a play on the radio from John Peel himself – It was here that I heard them, I still remember it, clear now as it was back then.

It was late one night and I had the transistor radio next to me on the pillow so I could hear it better.
As I was listening to Peelie he talked about the band and then played the following song.
The next day in the yard I saw Dave Cooper (drummer of The Valley Forge featured below) and I told him about John Peel playing the Tier Garden on his show the night before.

And thanks to the web I am able to listen to that John Peel airing once again:

The Tier Garden » The Tier Garden – The Afrikaan (John Peel)

This next band were associated with the Tier Garden, I believe the lead singer joined them later on… I might be wrong on that. But anyway…
A few years ago there was another band that used the same name as this band (or very, very near it) and for a second I thought that… but no, sadly it wasn’t.

So now to the original

The lead singer I thought would become famous. He was born to sing.

[Another Anecdote] A mate’s sister got a flat on Barrow Island and he roped us in to help paint the walls. It was a warm summer and we were still there late at night painting when we took a break. As we were sitting there we heard somebody below singing. It was closing time so he must have been coming back from the Dev (Devonshire Arms). This persons voice was carried through the summers night still air. The singing voice. It was pitch perfect. As I listened I immediately recognised that voice: “Jimmy ! Jimmy Tunn !” I said. (I knew him in the yard.)
As he got closer we realised that he was coming up our stairs and threw open the door. We then saw Jimmy going into the flat opposite. He’d had a few drinks, was very happy that night and greeted us all before going in.
Ah what a memory. I know a small boring one, but it is one that stuck with me.

Jimmy as mentioned was a singer and in a band of which I have this next single.
Another member of this band you can find nowadays posting some great stuff on Castles In Space. Together with assistance from some members of The Tier Garden, they recorded the following single:

Perfect Circle » Perfect Circle – Only When I Rains

The last one I have is from a 12″ single. Which was put online via an Italian website. I’m glad they did because my attempts with an old hi-fi I have here failed.

The name of this next band is…

As mentioned in my above meanderings I knew the drummer Dave Cooper and I saw him around the yard.
Dave told me about his band and kept me informed of what they were up to and when they produced the single below I bought a copy.

I also remember a bloke who used to go round with selling the latest singles, indie, punk, new wave…pop.. here had the lot and knew his stuff. He had this big bag full of 7″ records. Can’t remember his name now, but later on he set up a record shop on Rawlinson Street…
A bit off tangent there, thought I’d throw that in for no particular reason.
– Back to Dave’s band and this track:

The Valley Forge » The Valley Forge – Fit To Fall (The Mix)

It took me 3 days to write this because of the personal reflections above. I am a very slow writer though. But this post is important to me because it was in Barrow with their football and with the above bands that I really got into footie & music. They were a catalyst to what you see here now.

So then I’ll finish here by saying: “Come on Barrow !” I hope they are victorious again.
I wish I could be there this coming Saturday, but once again thanks to this wonderful interweb I will be able to watch – and shout myself hoarse again – from 3000 miles away.

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2 comments

  1. I was in Barrow in 1986 to watch the gig at Scorpio’s when Perfect Circle Supported Valley Forge and they were both on top form.I caught the later as many times as I could along with other locals Tier Garden and The Cotton Scourge. I was a regular at The Bluebird Club where Michelle and Mike [lead singer inTier Garden] put on bands. Primal Scream played one of their first gigs there and support was from Pop Will Eat Itself [who Vally Forge supported at The Sugar House at year later in Lancaster].The music I heard at The Bluebird club will live with me forever- the DJ played[who was in The Peach Thieves] The Bodines “Heard it all now”,The Mighty Lemon Drops “Like and Eagle” and many more that very few have listen to.Other bands I saw there inc House of love,Gone To Earth,Pauline Murray [ex Penetration] and The Storms, The Waltones at the 1986 Xmas do! The scene in Barrow was very good Tier Garden got the USA band Shoulders to play at Eddisons while on a break from supporting The Pogues sometime in 1987/88? Never watched the footie though but see Barrow Rugby League loose to St Helens once!

  2. The guy who sold the records was called iirc Bob [gentle giant, balding] and after leaving the yard had a couple of shops selling 2nd hand media. Unfortunately he died about maybe 9 or 10 years ago. Lovely fella

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