Book Review: Big Fry
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.