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The man who saved Accrington Stanley: Fans say farewell to Jack Barrett

Jack Barrett, who has died at the age of 88, is famed for throwing the club a vital lifeline six years after it left the Football League in 1962.

Jack Barrett

Tributes have been paid to the man credited with saving Accrington Stanley after his death at the age of 88.

Jack Barrett is famed for throwing the club a vital lifeline six years after it left the Football League in 1962.

The Royal Navy war veteran stood up during a crisis talks meeting in Accrington Town Hall in 1968 demanding a football club when all seemed lost.

After an appeal to townsfolk a new Accrington Stanley was formed and began to work its way up the non-league pyramid.

Mr Barrett, of West Crescent, Accrington, served for ten years as secretary of the committee and was made a life member of Stanley in 1978 following the team’s victory over Durham City in a cup clash.

A retired postman, he was granted Freedom of the Borough of Hyndburn in 2011.

The great-grandfather-of-three passed away peacefully at his home on Easter Sunday aged 88. The union flag was flown at half mast outside the town hall on Tuesday and Wednesday as a mark of respect. Family, club legends, fans and Accrington stalwarts have paid tribute to his achievements and character.

His son Stephen Barrett said his death was ‘unexpected’ and ‘sudden’.

The Durham University lecturer, 55, who lives in Northumberland, said: “He was on holiday with us a couple of weeks ago.

“It was lovely to see him in the countryside and he loved walking with his four-year-old grandson.

“You can never underestimate how it can suddenly take you by surprise. He died peacefully in his sleep of old age.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response and we are so grateful.”

Stanley managing director Rob Heys said a minute’s applause was held before the club’s home game against Burton Albion on Monday and chants of his name were sung throughout the match.

He said: “Everybody at the ground was shocked because everybody knew who he was.

“All the success we have achieved and will achieve in the years to comes from what Jack put in place.

“He was a Stanley legend and will be for years to come. There are kids who are not born yet who will learn about what he did.

“He had an incredible life and was a very friendly, quiet and unassuming man.”

Former Stanley manager John Coleman, who managed the club for 13 years, said he was a ‘true gentleman and really nice bloke’.

He said: “Obviously everybody in Accrington and connected with the club should be grateful for him as there wouldn’t be a club without him.

“He always carried himself well, always had a smile on his face and willing to talk to you. Coming across these people are few and far between these days.

“We got on really well with him and being at the club for so long we made friends that stay with you for life. He was one of those people.”

Stanley fan and former England cricket captain David Lloyd said he was ‘Stanley through and through’.

He said: “He’s one of the main reasons we are alive today. It’s all down to this fella.

“You need people like that to drive things forward.”

Neil McGuinness, chairman of Accrington Stanley Official Supporters Club, said he was ‘fundamental’ in rescuing the club.

He said: “He left one massive legacy and that was the football club itself. He was its saviour. Legend is a word banded around quite a lot for high profile sports stars but he was a working man who had a dream and brought it to reality.”

Reds fan Ashley Seed, who has organised the club’s away travel for the past few years, said he was a ‘true legend’. He said: “The terrace was devastated on news of his passing and the echoing chorus of ‘One Jack Barrett’ was testament to a great man.

“Jack fought to keep our club alive, and it’s people like Jack that give Accrington Stanley the desire to fight.”

Dany Robson, who was sports editor at the Accrington Observer for ten years from 2003 until earlier this year, said he was ‘the most unassuming hero you would ever want to meet’.

She said: “This was the man who had stood up in a meeting to fight for Accrington Stanley to be reformed in 1968, who walked to Liverpool to raise money for the club and a man who lived a stone’s throw away from the Crown Ground and loved Accrington Stanley.

“If it wasn’t for him, there probably would not be an Accrington Stanley football club yet Jack just accepted his part in the Reds history with an unassuming shrug of the shoulders and a smile.

“One big memory of Jack is on the pitch at Woking in 2006 as Stanley clinched promotion back to the Football League.

“They had finally fulfilled one of his dreams and he was the proudest person in Accrington that day.

“But the lasting thought of Jack is his smile and a wave outside the Gazelle Lounge every home game.

“One in a million, he will be missed and must be remembered.”

Husband of the late Jean, he leaves children Stephen, David and Michael, grandchildren Darren, Emma, Thomas and Harry, and great-grandchildren Blake, Kai and George.

A funeral service will be held at St James Church in Accrington at 10am on Tuesday, April 9 followed by a service at Accrington Crematorium at 11am.

The funeral procession will depart from Accrington Stanley at 9.40am.

The services will be followed by a gathering in the Accrington Stanley Hospitality Suite. All are welcome to attend.

Donations in memory of Jack can be made to the Air Ambulance through Kirby and Hughes Funeral Directors.

Accrington Stanley say the club will be closed on April 9 as a mark of respect.

Jack Barrett (back row, right) receives his Freedom of the Borough award, pictured with Nigel Berry, Joan Pilkington and Roy Lockwood
Jack Barrett (back row, right) receives his Freedom of the Borough award, pictured with Nigel Berry, Joan Pilkington and Roy Lockwood
 

Jack Barrett: A hero to everyone linked with Stanley

WITHOUT him there could be no Accrington Stanley today. Reporter Jon Macpherson looks back on the life of Jack Barrett and the role he played in saving our football club ...

HE was a war veteran who proved he was up for the big fight in resurrecting Accrington Stanley.

The Peel Park club, as it was then, had famously been forced to resign from the Football League in March 1962 due to its crippling debts – 74 years after helping found the world’s oldest league.

Stanley was accepted into the old Lancashire Combination Division Two but by 1966 had disbanded. Jack Barrett, who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, attended the infamous meeting at Accrington Town Hall two years later to talk about re-forming the club.

Other meetings had come and gone and this was last chance saloon for a football club in the town.

Stanley fan Jack, who had supported the club since he was 12 years old, leapt to his feet just as the meeting looked doomed to failure.

Recalling the meeting during an interview with the Observer in October 2005, he said: “There were only 25 people there out of the whole of Accrington.

“The mayor, James Madden, was there and he said he was opening the meeting about the possibility of re-forming a club in the town but we would need to find a name, a ground, finances and more.

“Not a word was spoken. The mayor carried on and again no one said anything. There was silence. This went on for a while and he was just about to close the meeting when I knew I had to stand up. I remember it clearly. I got to my feet, gave a speech, said it was time for action and we never looked back.

"I remember saying that all clubs started out with nothing, that we would have to raise funds with different events, that we needed to elect a committee and that we needed to meet with the council to find a ground. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to stop us.

“Then things suddenly started coming to life – everyone had their say. Everything was approved, the committee was formed and the rest is history.”

The committee finally found their current Crown Ground home and Jack helped build the ground using railway sleepers for terracing.

They received financial help through sponsorship and local businesses and a new Accrington Stanley was born.

The club kicked their first ball in the Lancashire Combination League in 1970 and Jack was a familiar face on the terraces for both home and away games.

He even jetted down to Bournemouth to watch them play in their first cup game.

It would take the club until 2006 before they climbed back into the football league with a victory over Woking.

Speaking to the Observer after the game, Jack said: “It was a great day at Woking, it was probably the best.

“We have had some good times over the years with more ups than downs and it can get better. I had a tear in my eye when the final whistle went and I was screaming for it to go as the referee played five minutes of extra time and it seemed forever. I never thought we would get that far but everyone since 1968 has done well to get the club where it has.”

 

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