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Frank Barson 1922-1928 152 Games 4 Goals

December 27, 2009

Written By: Adam Carpenter

Frank Barson will never be included as one of the most skilful or talented players in the history of Manchester United, but there has been fewer characters that have passed through and by Old Trafford, and one thing is for certain, there was not one player who could create more publicity stories in his generation than Frank could.

Frank was not one who could just step into football with the natural ability and take the easy road, like many in his time he had to slog his guts out in life. He started out his working life as a blacksmith where he had grown up in Grimesthorpe, South Yorkshire, which was a job which helped mould him into having the most granite physique which helped him become such a presence on a football pitch. And when he did put down the hammer anvil, he continued to make the sparks fly in football just like he did a blacksmith.

Barson started his career out as a player with his local club Barnsley, where he clocked up over 90 appearances in 8 years, and then he moved onto the midlands and signed for Aston Villa for a spell of three years which cost £2850. The day he signed for United was a dream for Barson and he was really excited of linking up with some really good players that included, Lal Hilditch, Joe Spence and Frank McPherson. He put pen to paper in July 1922 for in that day a colossal figure of £5000. The reason being it was such a hefty price tag was because Villa were reluctant to sell Frank, and United had just been relegated so they needed to spend big to get themselves back to the top flight, and Frank was the main ingredient the team was missing, a bit of steel across the back line. No doubt Frank was a player every football team at the time would love to have in their defence, and that £5000 price tag was not to be a problem to the Red devils over the coming years. The sight of seeing Frank was enough to put many of the teams off standing well above 6 feet tall and the concentration of his face told the story before he stepped out onto the field, letting nothing get in his way from crunching his opponents.

The directors of the club made an offer to Barson that he duly accepted. If the club were to be promoted back to the top flight within three years of Frank’s signing, they would let him own a pub to keep and that would nicely set him up for his life after his footballing days were over. The team did it just in time and three years after Barson’s signature he got his pub as the club were back in the first division.

The man’s style of play on a football pitch was fearsome, admirable and a hard nut. Sometimes Frank took it too far and even let the referees know what he was going to do to the opponents, so they would know whether there was intention in his challenges, more of often than not there was the intention. This caused massive stir and retribution to Frank by many of the opposing fans and he was a hated name across most clubs in England, but the United fans adored him as he was a key member of the team and made the side click into gear. In some instances the police officers at the match advised Barson to leave the grounds secretly as it would help prevent a situation of a riot.

No surprises that Barson had more to his game than aggression and tackling. He used every part of his massive 6 foot plus frame he had to win literally anything that came in his direction in the air. The Englishman was so dominant in the air he even scored a headed goal from 30 yards for United one time in a match against Sheffield United. He was widely regarded as the best and finest header of a football in the country at his prime.

Frank could never really handle the opposition and other people such as the papers and was quite a blunt and sometimes rude person to talk too. But he was also a very good guy towards his younger team mates when he was getting to the latter stage of his career. He was always there to show and help the younger players making their way into the game and give them tips on how to improve. He was involved in many fights and brawls on and off the pitch and had got into drug trouble one time. Frank could never hide himself from injuries though which was why he could only manage just over 150 appearances but when he did play he was a magnificent asset to have.

A quote from Billy Walker who played with Barson at Villa, ‘Frank did more than any other player to help me when I started – but he then also had no friends on the field.’

Barson left United in 1928 after appearing 152 times for the club with four goals. He moved onto Hartlepool United where he wound his career down and further eased it off with playing for clubs such as Rhyl Athletic, Swansea Town, Stourbridge and again Aston Villa. H only ever played for his country once as he was not all that bothered about England and it was a game where they lost 2-1 to Wales at Wembley in 1920. Barson was partly at fault for the loss and it was England’s first defeat to Wales for 38 years. He never featured for his nation again and had always stated that club came before country to him.

It is not a question for me to answer to whether this man is a legend at our club, as of course I never witnessed him play. But he only featured 152 times with injuries hitting him hard, but I would imagine many who did see him play would regard him as a footballing legend if not a Manchester United legend. But there is one thing I know I am quite safe in saying,

He was a certain icon and character that was dearly adored at our football club and every team would love to include a Frank Barson.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. WR10 permalink
    December 27, 2009 7:31 pm

    well, I never heard about this legend until now, but that certainly provides the much needed info.
    Good job again Robi & Carpy, spreading good things!

    • December 27, 2009 8:35 pm

      This is why I wanted to make this site and with the help of Carpy we are now bringing light on so many players that not many would of heard about,
      check out some of the other players in the select category that you may not have heard or read about before 🙂

  2. December 27, 2009 9:58 pm

    Carpy you amaze me. You are a future Journalist buddy, well done. This BLOG sight on Man.Unt Legends is growing stronger all the time and well done robi for creating it. Keep popping them off.

  3. gordon barson permalink
    April 27, 2010 6:10 pm

    Frank Barson’s 6’0 foot frame was actually 6’10”.Probably the tallest ever pro footballer.

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