Chris Dunlavy pro­files the ca­reer of the Wi­gan in­terim man­ager

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

COLD, con­fused, shocked by their team-mates’ con­sump­tion of al­co­hol and in­ca­pable of find­ing a shop open be­yond 6pm.

When the ‘Three Ami­gos’ de­scended on Wi­gan in 1995, Roberto Martinez, Je­sus Seba and Isidro Diaz were about as com­fort­able in Lan­cashire as a York­shire rose.

Thank good­ness, then, for Lat­ics boss Gra­ham Barrow. “Gra­ham was my men­tor,” said Martinez, who would later em­ploy Barrow as his as­sis­tant at Wi­gan.

“But he is also a good friend. As the man­ager of Wi­gan, it was his job to make sure we set­tled in quickly, but he went over and above that.

“He also wel­comed us as part of his own fam­ily. We were reg­u­larly in­vited into his home to prac­tise our English with his wife, Mags, and his two chil­dren, James and Han­nah.

“Be­ing so far from our own fam­i­lies, he helped us feel at home.”

It was a car­ing, com­pas­sion­ate side to the 62-year-old that pre­cious few of his bat­tered and bruised op­po­nents ever saw.

A leg­endary fig­ure at Ch­ester City, the club for whom he made 248 ap­pear­ances, twice man­aged and led to a fa­mous pro­mo­tion, Barrow re­mains the hard­man by which all oth­ers are judged at the Deva.

Crunch­ing chal­lenges, gap­ing wounds, off-the-ball ret­ri­bu­tion – ev­ery Blues fan has their own cher­ished mem­ory of a mid­fielder whose style be­longs to a by­gone age.

“No­body got the bet­ter of Gra­ham,” said ex-Ch­ester striker Stu­art Rim­mer. “You’d see play­ers leave some­thing on him and think ‘Bad move’. He was hard as nails, brave as a lion and a fan­tas­tic leader.”

That un­com­pro­mis­ing ethos was, in part, the re­sult of an ed­u­ca­tion in the rut­ted and ruth­less am­a­teur scene of the 70s and 80s.


Re­leased by Black­burn as a teenager, Barrow played for Chor­ley, South­port and Al­trin­cham whilst work­ing full-time as a heat­ing en­gi­neer. By the time he fi­nally turned pro at Wi­gan, he was 27, bat­tlescarred and grimly de­ter­mined to leave the boil­ers be­hind.

Equally, how­ever, Barrow em­bod­ied his man­agers – the fear­some Larry Lloyd at Wi­gan and the hu­man hairdryer, Harry McNally, at Ch­ester.

“Nei­ther suf­fered fools,” said Barrow. “They had rules and, if you didn’t abide by them, you wouldn’t last long. But Harry, in par­tic­u­lar, played a huge role in my de­vel­op­ment. He taught me the val­ues of dis­ci­pline, re­spect and hard-work. You wanted to run through walls for him.”

When McNally was sacked in 1992, Barrow re­luc­tantly stepped up. Two years later, he led the club to run­ners-up spot in the Third Divi­sion – ar­guably the finest mo­ment in the club’s his­tory and one that beat Kevin Kee­gan to third spot in the LMA man­ager of the year awards.

“It was a great year,” re­calls David Pugh. “And Gra­ham was ac­tu­ally pretty in­no­va­tive. We of­ten played 4-5-1, which is all the rage now, but hardly seen in those days.”

Sadly, the sum­mer sale of key play­ers saw Barrow walk out. Loyal to the end, he couldn’t lie to fans over the board’s ac­tions and felt com­pelled to make a stand. “It was silly re­ally,” he said. “I had a fam­ily, a mortgage, but I had to stand by my prin­ci­ples.” Then came Wi­gan, the Dave Whe­lan revo­lu­tion and the Three Ami­gos. The Span­ish in­jec­tion was Whe­lan’s idea, yet Barrow could spot his own play­ers well enough. While scout­ing Martinez and Co at lower league Bala­guer, his eye was caught by a skinny teenager play­ing for op­po­nents Las Pal­mas. Barrow was told that young Juan Car­los Valeron – later to win 46 caps for Spain – was not for sale. Barrow lasted just six months more at Spring­field Park, a vic­tim of Whe­lan’s root-and-branch re­struc­tur­ing. Sto­ries of the part­ing vary. Whe­lan says he told Barrow to his face, Barrow that he re­ceived a phone call in­struct­ing him to clear his desk. The pair even­tu­ally re-forged their re­la­tion­ship, though not be­fore sev­eral years of an­i­mos­ity. Barrow then spent three years at Rochdale, two at Bury and an­other at Ch­ester, re­turn­ing to the Deva for a fourth time in 2006 as as­sis­tant to Mark Wright. So bound was he to the Blues that even an of­fer to join Martinez at Swansea was re­jected, though he did even­tu­ally re­join the Spa­niard at Wi­gan in 2009.

“I have not ap­pointed him for sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons,” said Martinez at the time. “Gra­ham has got a great knowl­edge of the game and sets ex­tremely high stan­dards in ev­ery­thing he does.


“He was a leader as a player and took that into man­age­ment. He is very de­mand­ing, with a great man­ner and im­pres­sive man-man­age­ment skills.”

As an FA charge for scuf­fling in the tun­nel with New­cas­tle as­sis­tant John Carver in 2013 demon­strates, Barrow re­mains a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent.

But, as a coach, he has blended the prin­ci­ples of Lloyd and McNally with the ul­tra-mod­ern meth­ods of Martinez.

“Gra­ham is great to work with,” said Joe Hin­ni­gan, for­mer Sunderland de­fender who as­sisted Barrow at Wi­gan, Ch­ester and Rochdale. “His best at­tribute is trust. He lets you get on with your job and doesn’t in­ter­fere.”

Over the years, Mr Ch­ester mor­phed into Mr Wi­gan. When Martinez asked Barrow to be his No.2 at Ever­ton in 2013, the likes of Callum McManaman and Gary Cald­well begged him to stay, then urged the chair­man to hold firm.

And, when the sack­ing of War­ren Joyce in March led to Barrow hav­ing in­terim charge un­til May, the duo were among a host of ex-Lat­ics who sent mes­sages of good­will.

“I didn’t want or ex­pect to be in this po­si­tion,” Barrow ad­mit­ted. Ch­ester fans may re­mem­ber they were his ex­act sen­ti­ments in 1992.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

HOLD­ING FIRM: Wi­gan have en­trusted Gra­ham Barrow with the man­ager’s job till May

UN­LIKELY LADS: For­mer Wi­gan boss Roberto Martinez and coach Barrow

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