Book Review: Big Fry

Posted by on Dec 27, 2009 in Book Review, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Big Fry
By Barry Fry and Phil Rostron
Published by Collins Willow
2000, From 1p (Amazon), 978-0002-189491

Barry Fry’s autobiography is now ten years old, but I thought it would be informative to return to it as a Nineties period piece – a time capsule shedding light on the wheeler-dealing of that decade and before. Old school managers like Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis are currently undergoing a revival in esteem, but there are currently very few in the Championship, with perhaps only the former Master and Pupil Warnock-Blackwell combination properly fitting the description.

Fry is honest about his lack of attention to detail, exceedingly large cakehole, and the pulsating heart on his sleeve, and indeed, Steve Claridge describes him as the worst tactician he has ever worked with. His record, however, does bear scrutiny and the former Manchester United youngster does not need to embellish a managerial career that saw unequivocal success at Barnet, Southend, Birmingham and Peterborough, both in terms of trophies and transfers.

His time at Birmingham came to an untidy end following the club’s shabby treatment of him and recruitment of the anaemic Trevor Francis. Fry did in time come to accept working under a woman in Karren Brady, even if she is more in the Margaret Thatcher than the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf school. The boardroom hierarchy at St. Andrews is exposed for the charmlessness we all knew it to contain and one does shudder at Fry’s naivete throughout the book, not least in his own venturing into ownership at London Road, initially a complete financial disaster but then saved by a sugar daddy in Peter Boizot. Fry’s nurturing of Matthew Etherington and Simon Davies helped set Posh up for their rise of recent seasons though.

So, it’s a good story, but as a book, it doesn’t really work. The writing is pedestrian even by the standards of the soccer autobiography, and Rostron should take most of the blame for that. Occasional mistakes pepper the text, including Bart Griemink rechristened as “Bart Grimmett”, and a tempestuous Anglo-Italian cup tie is recounted without a single mention of the opposing club’s name. Fry’s unreconstructed side is clear but thankfully not played up to the extent it has been in more recent autobiographies. Although racy at times, one might have expected something a little juicier.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. Liz
    December 27, 2009

    Phil Rostron works with me. How entirely bizarre.

  2. Frank Heaven
    January 6, 2010

    I always thought Barry Fry was a poor man's Big Ron, particularly when he was at Blues. He was brought in by the Bongo brothers (aka Sullivan and the Golds) to try to give the Cinderella of West Midlands football a bit of profile.

    Fry tried desperately to live up to the billing they gave him, aided and abetted by a sycophantic media, but never quite had the wit or charm to carry it off.

    As for his track record at St Andrews – relegation and a 1-2 loss to non-league Kidderminster during his first season tend to overshadow anything he later achieved (chiefly, promotion back to the second tier and the Auto Windscreens Shield).

    A wheeler dealer, half-time crockery chucker like Fry will probably always thrive in the lower divisions and non-league, but the bottom half of the Championship would appear to be their glass ceiling.


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