Ian Bar­a­clough on how Big Sam’s plan sent team run­ning to the toi­let!

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

AS a young striker at Le­ices­ter City, Ian Bar­a­clough was painfully aware he didn’t have the tools for a ca­reer as a fox in the box. Luck­ily, so did Alan Buck­ley, the man­ager who signed him for Grimsby in 1991 and con­verted him into a mid­fielder.

Bar­a­clough rev­elled in his new role, carv­ing out a near 20-year ca­reer with the likes of Lin­coln City, Mans­field, Notts County, QPR and Scun­thorpe, the club where he won three of his four pro­mo­tions.

Since then, he has man­aged Scunny, Sligo Rovers – where he clinched the club’s first League of Ire­land ti­tle in 35 years – and Mother­well.

Now 45, the Le­ices­ter­shire lad looks back on those early years at Filbert Street, a glo­ri­ous sea­son at Meadow Lane – and the day Sam Al­lardyce gave ev­ery­one the trots!


Le­ices­ter City. I played for the county against their youth team when I was 15. We ac­tu­ally got beat about 7-1, but for some rea­son they picked me out. I came through the sys­tem un­der David Pleat with guys like Richard Smith, Des Lyt­tle and Scott Oakes. I was a striker in those days, along­side Paul Kit­son.

He played a lot more than me. I man­aged only a cou­ple of ap­pear­ances and quickly re­alised I wasn’t des­tined to be a for­ward at the high­est level.

I ac­tu­ally got of­fered a new deal when Brian Lit­tle came in, but with all the strik­ers in front of me it was clear I wasn’t go­ing to play. I’d been on loan to Grimsby and even­tu­ally signed for them. It was Alan Buck­ley who first put me in mid­field.


Very tough. David Pleat was in­stru­men­tal in my de­vel­op­ment, very pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing to­wards young play­ers. The late Andy King at Mans­field for pure en­thu­si­asm and man- man­age­ment. Ray Har­ford was also top­class.

And, of course, Sam Al­lardyce, my man­ager when we went on that fa­mous run with Notts County and won pro­mo­tion.

Sam was at the fore­front of sports sci­ence. I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber when he first in­tro­duced us to Cre­a­tine, the mus­cle-build­ing sup­ple­ment. The club was skint, so it wasn’t pro­vided, but we were ‘urged’ to buy some.

No­body gave us any in­struc­tions – all we knew was that we had to load up. What no­body re­alised was that too much gave you the runs. That first game, we raced off the pitch at half-time and there was a queue for the toi­lets!


Gary McAl­lis­ter. He was only a young lad at Le­ices­ter, but even then you could see he was a qual­ity mid­fielder. Left foot, right foot, strikes on goal, set pieces, his tech­nique was im­mac­u­late and he had enor­mous en­ergy. Even though he won the ti­tle with Leeds, it prob­a­bly took that move to Liverpool, at 35, for peo­ple to re­alise how good he was. An in­cred­i­ble player who I al­ways felt wasn’t given the credit he was due.


I was at Grimsby in ‘91 but I was only a kid and hardly played, so I’m not count­ing that one. My first proper pro­mo­tion was from Divi­sion Three with Notts County un­der Sam in 1997-98.

We got 99 points and, at one stage, won ten games on the spin.We even­tu­ally won the ti­tle by 17 points and be­came the first team in post-war his­tory to win pro­mo­tion in March.

Sadly, I didn’t get to en­joy the cel­e­bra­tions. It was the first year of Bos­mans and my con­tract was about to ex­pire. I’d al­ready agreed a move to QPR – which caused some fun and games with Sam – and was all set to go for noth­ing in the sum­mer.

Then, the club rang me on the old dead­line day in March and said: ‘Look, if you go now, they’ve agreed to give us some money for you’. That was it.


Aidy Boothroyd was great. Peo­ple may not think that, given his per­sona as a man­ager but, as a player, he was great value. He was mouthy, he didn’t care who he up­set or what he said. And he could be sav­age with it.

Mike Pol­litt was an­other one, a clas­sic daft goal­keeper. He was prob­a­bly the best No.3 keeper in the busi­ness. He made a ca­reer out of it!

He was a Bolton lad, with that Peter Kay de­liv­ery. And he’d do stupid things. He had this dog called Ralph and he’d pre­tend he was Ralph, bound­ing around and lick­ing peo­ple. He was crazy and got on your nerves, but great to have around.


We had a re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced cen­tre­half at Notts County called Gary Strod­der. And, whether it was nerves or just from drink­ing too much wa­ter, he could not start a game with­out hav­ing a wee.

More of­ten than not, it would hap­pen on the pitch just be­fore kick-off. I didn’t re­alise this un­til mid-way through the sea­son. I can’t re­mem­ber the game, but I was go­ing round, shak­ing hands and gee­ing peo­ple up. When I got to Gary, I felt this wet patch and said ‘What the hell is that?’

Straight as an ar­row, he just said ‘Yeah, sorry about that Ian, I’ve p****d my­self. I do it ev­ery game.’ I couldn’t stop laugh­ing at the time and it still makes me chuckle.


Play­ing un­til I was 38 was some­thing I never en­vis­aged when I started out. Peo­ple al­ways say ‘Play as long as you can’ and I man­aged more than 700 games, so I cer­tainly did.

I did look af­ter my­self but it wasn’t as if we were like nuns. I had a drink, I went out, I en­joyed my­self. Peo­ple are cer­tainly a lot more pro­fes­sional th­ese days. I was just lucky that I never picked up any se­ri­ous in­juries.


It’s more a re­gret than a mo­ment but I never did get to test my­self at the high­est level. There were whis­pers that it might hap­pen from time to time, but noth­ing came off. It’s a shame, but I’m com­fort­able in the knowl­edge that I wasn’t quite good enough.

I also had three sack­ings as a man­ager, with Scun­thorpe, Sligo and then Mother­well.

It isn’t a nice feel­ing.You feel hard done by and it’s very dif­fi­cult for the peo­ple around you.

But you can’t take it too per­son­ally. It’s the life of a man­ager now and it’s get­ting worse. Just look at Sean O’Driscoll. He got only 16 games at Wal­sall.What was he ex­pected to do in that time?


We had a pre-sea­son tour to Ayia Napa. Play­ing in that heat in July, hav­ing gone out for a few drinks the

Best man­ager: Sam Al­lardyce Fun­ni­est player: Mike Pol­litt Best team-mate: Gary McAl­lis­ter Low­est mo­ment: Leav­ing Scunny

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