November 13, 2012 by Made In Brum
Squad rotation has become part of the modern game for big spending clubs with European ambition. Keeping multiple players happy whilst staying competitive in is a fine art, but where did it originate? Being a Blues fan, there can be only one answer. Barry Fry!
I was nine years old in December 1993 when Barry Fry was put in charge at St Andrews, replacing Terry Cooper who had resigned when Messrs Sullivan, Gold & Gold had bought the club. Like most young football fans I was obsessed with the championship manager phenomenon, wheeling and dealing in virtual footballers like a pre-pubescent Derek Trotter. Fitting into this category, I could relate to the man put in charge of my team.
Fry’s version of squad rotation was radical to say the least. If you didn’t play well enough, he’d sign a replacement. If someone played well against Blues and was affordable, he’d sign them (remember Kenny Lowe?) Very soon Blues had enough players to field a team in the NFL never mind a 14 man squad in the second tier. He didn’t quite manage to keep us up that season of 1993-94 despite a final day win away at Tranmere Rovers. I remember travelling back from Merseyside, stood in a service station somewhere on the M6 dressed as a Viking and seeing some Albion fans on a TV doing the conga as they stayed up at our expense only on goal difference.
1994-95 was a different story though, with the old terraces knocked down, the seats of the Tilton & Kop were given some memorable games. Ricky Otto scoring for both teams on his debut when we drew with Cambridge 1-1 after signing his contract on the pitch before the game. A 7-1 win against Blackpool after going 1-0 down with George Parris netting in a pair of borrowed boots. Beating Swansea 3-2 in the Auto Windscreen regional semi thanks to a golden goal from Paul Tait, we all know that wasn’t the only golden goal Tait scored for us that season. Winning that trophy at Wembley coupled with an immediate return to division one vindicated the board’s decision to install the charismatic Fry as manager at St Andrews.
It all ended quite unceremoniously for Fry and he was quite harshly sacked. He had after all guided Blues to a mid-table finish and the league cup semi-final in our first season back in division one but it was decided that he had taken us as far as he could and the board appointed a BCFC legend in Trevor Francis. Fry went on to manage and then own Peterborough, finding himself in the position of Chairman-Manager! You just couldn’t make it up where Barry Fry was concerned.
By Daniel Phipps.