Barry Fry and Birmingham City: ‘They wanted Chubby Brown, they got Bazza, a naked b********* from Karren Brady, Wembley winner, title winner, and taking a leak to get rid of a St Andrews curse’
Halfway through the 1993-94 Division One season Birmingham City were in the doldrums and owner David Sullivan decided the club needed a different sort of manager.
“We wanted a Chubby Brown-type character or a Johnny Vegas,” Sullivan remarked. “We needed to get noticed. We had to pick someone who could actually do the job as well and therefore Barry Fry was perfect.”
So the call went out to Barry Fry who was manager of then Division One table-toppers Southend United.
And the lure of a big city club proved too much, although Fry wasn’t instantly impressed with what he found at St Andrews.
“When I first went there I thought it was all gimmicks,” Fry said. “They had a porn king for an owner, a bimbo for a managing director and I didn’t know where they were coming from.”
Success certainly didn’t come straight away. The Blues were relegated because they scored fewer goals than West Bromwhich Albion despite winning five of their final seven matches. Posh went down with them.
Birmingham won the Second Division title the following season, but not without the odd Fry skirmish with Sullivan and his managing director Karren Brady.
They fell out over the signing of Portuguese winger Jose Domingues who went on to enjoy a sparkling debut in a 4-0 win over Posh - it was also the debut of a young Posh goalkeeper called Mark Tyler.
Sullivan wanted Fry and his assistant Lil Fuccillo sacked for defying orders to sign Domingues.
After Domingues’ debut, Fry delivered a memorable post-match interview saying ‘Sullivan didn’t know he difference between a goalline and a clothes line’ which irked Brady.
Fry recalled: “Karren charged into the dressing room to give me a dressing down. Unfortunately I was naked and dripping wet so I put a towel round me as she ordered me into the boot room where I received the biggest b******* of my life! She slammed the door and shouted at me ‘Don’t you ever embarrass David like that again’ and I developed the greatest respect for her after that.
“It turned into a great season at a great club with unbelievable support. I loved it there and I didn’t want it to end. We won at Wembley in the Football League Trophy Final. We won a standing ovation at Anfield after taking Liverpool to a replay in the FA Cup and we reached the League Cup semi-finals. We even did a reserve team league and cup double.
That wasn’t enough for Sullivan who, 36 hours after assuring Fry his job was safe, sacked him in May 1996 after the Blues had finished 15th in Division One.
Fry resurfaced at Posh four weeks later where he remains 25 years later.
As well as winning the second division title in the 1994-95 season, Barry Fry’s Birmingham City also won the Football League Trophy Final at Wembley in front over 75,000 fans.
The Blues had 55,000 in the ground to celebrate a ‘golden goal’ winner against Carlisle United from Paul Tait.
A fortnight later, Steve Claridge and Tait netted to give Blues a 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town on the last day of the season to clinch the Second Division championship title.
“Our fans were as mad as me,” Fry stated. “There were 50,000 bluenoses at the game which was incredible, but they really supported me and the team. Birmingham’s crowd at the game before I took over was 4,600 so the turnaround was amazing. They just wanted to see a successful side which we were.
“I signed some rubbish players, but I also signed Liam Daish for £50k from Cambridge and we sold him for £1.7 million and I signed Steve Claridge for £200k and sold him for £1.3 million.”
BARRY BITS & BOBS
Fy was ‘gutted’ to be sacked by Birmingham, but his famous sense of humour remained intact. An answer phone message at his home announced: “Kristine’s (Mrs Fry) gone shopping as usual, and I’ve gone to the job centre looking for employment. Funny old game, innit?” Club legend Trevor Francis replaced Fry just days after Blues owner David Sullivan had said: “Barry will be our manager next season unless Barry decides otherwise.”
**After one interview with Birmingham manager Barry Fry, legendary football commentator Barry Davies said: “Speaking to Barry is like trying to complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw. You ask one question and he gives 15 different answers in one sentence!”
**Fry signed 29 players and sold 28 in his two and a half year stint in charge of Birmingham. The club made a profit of £500k on those signings.
He broke the club record transfer fee twice paying £800k for lanky striker Kevin Francis and winger Ricky Otto who went on to join Fry at Posh.
**Fry was so desperate to improve results at St Andrews he took drastic action. “We were told the groud was cursed and to end it we had to pee in all four corners. “I am not normally superstitious, but I was willing to try anything so I went and took a leak on all four corner flags. It took me a while - it’s not that easy.”