Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why United manager Karl still loves Barrow

 Source: North West Evening Mail

 FC UNITED manager Karl Marginson tells the Mail’s MATT DAVIES why he regards Barrow AFC as the best club he ever played for; manically celebrating the goal that clinched the NPL title in 1998; and a surprise career move for former Bluebirds boss Owen Brown

WHATEVER the result at Gigg Lane on Sunday, Barrow AFC will always command a special place in Karl Marginson’s heart.

The FC United of Manchester boss would like nothing more than to mastermind an FA Cup shock by dumping the Blue Square Bet Premier side out of the FA Cup.

But when the dust settles on what should be an absorbing tie – the Northern Premier’s most ambitious outfit against the renowned FA Cup fighters and FA Trophy holders – Marginson will still regard the Bluebirds as one of his favourite clubs.

“I have great memories of Barrow,” says the 39-year-old Mancunian, whose graft and craft in midfield played its part in AFC’s Unibond Premier Division title winning season of 1997/98.

Most fans remember him for the diving header against Boston United which clinched the title, but Marginson’s contribution was much greater than that one act of bravery and skill at the Holker Street end.

The former Rotherham United man was a member of a very strong squad assembled by manager Owen Brown, and made 78 appearances. He would have played more games but for injuries and he won supporters over with his gritty displays and sweet left foot.

“When I started there I didn’t set the world on fire with my performances, but then I got my head down and worked hard and things turned around for me,” says Marginson.

“My abiding memory of Barrow fans – and it’s pretty similar to FC United fans really – is that as long as you go out and give 100 per cent for the team they’ll give you their full support and that’s what a football crowd is all about.

“I’ve played at places where they don’t recognise the effort that goes in. But that’s not the case at Barrow and at FC United, where if you put 100 per cent in and play for the shirt, the fans respect you.”

Marginson guaranteed his name will forever be etched in AFC folklore, on the evening of April 21, 1998, when Brown’s boys needed a result against old enemies Boston to seal the title and bring Conference football back to the town for the first time in six years.

A milkman at the time, Marginson showed a lotta bottle to arrive at the near post fractionally ahead of Boston keeper Paul Bastock and plant a Neil Morton cross into the net, sending the Holker Street end into raptures.

He correctly remembers there being a ‘bit of history’ with Bastock. The Boston man was a hate figure at Holker Street after he made gestures to the crowd following a bad injury to AFC defender Tim Parkin in a game in February 1994, and that made Marginson even more determined to win that challenge in the six-yard-box.

“I made the run and the keeper’s come out and I thought I’ll collide into him, if you like, and luckily somehow it’s hit my head and bounced in,” he says.

“After that goal I ran around for about 10 minutes like a wailing banshee!

“The winning goal against Boston definitely stands out, but I also remember we had a game against Blyth and we were 1-0 down. I managed to get a couple of free-kicks to give us a vital win. The first free-kick I took early when the keeper was setting his wall up, and then the next one they actually put a lad on the line and I managed to bend it over the wall and in, so that was pleasing. There’s not many games when you manage to score two free-kicks.”

“I really, really enjoyed my time at Barrow,” adds Marginson.

“I’ve got to say, playing-wise, Barrow is my favourite club I played at without a shadow of a doubt. Because of the fans, it’s really a Football League club.

“It’s a Football League club and with Dave (Bayliss) and Darren (Sheridan) I’m sure they are going in the right direction because they know the game inside out.

“And with them being full-time now, and able to work on things on the training ground, then hopefully they can get back up there.

“The Conference is changing that much now it’s frightening – you’ve got the likes of Luton, Darlington, Mansfield, and Grimsby, and with the finances that they can throw at it it’s going to be tough to compete at the top of the league. But I’m sure Barrow can hold their own.”

One of the hallmarks of the 97/98 title-winning squad was their never-say-die attitude and great team spirit, and although a glorious era was to come to a pretty abrupt end soon after as the Stephen Vaughan reign came crashing down, Marginson still keeps in touch with some of his old team-mates, including current AFC skipper Paul Jones. He is still in touch with boss Brown too, who, Marginson hears, is now on the Inter Milan payroll, under former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, whom the Scouser worked for at Anfield.

“Now and again I’ve spoken to Jonesy and I’m looking forward to seeing him again,” he says.

“I tried to sign him a few years ago. He wasn’t getting in but Phil Wilson (then Barrow manager) was reluctant to let him go – as he would be, because he’s a good player.

“The squad actually had a reunion about four years ago in Liverpool. Owen Brown set it up and it was a great night.

“I still speak to Owen now and again – he’s got a decent job by the way.

“He was Rafa Benitez’s right-hand man at Liverpool and he’s taken him to Inter Milan as his European scout.”

Marginson’s career path after his AFC stint saw him play for several non-league clubs in the Greater Manchester area, before the lifelong Manchester United fan was appointed as the first manager of the newly-formed FC United in June 2005, leading the club to three successive promotions. His role with the Red Rebels is much more than managing the first team however.

He explains: “We do a lot of work in the community.

“It’s a massive part of the club, getting out and coaching in some of the deprived areas of Manchester, so I’m basically full-time coaching.”

Marginson’s most pressing current concern at FC United of course, is to try and knock Barrow out of the cup on Sunday – but, whatever the result, he’ll always remain an AFC fan, and a hero in the eyes of Bluebirds supporters.

First published at 13:07, Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Published by