Born: 10th April 1891 in Grimethorpe, Sheffield.
Died: 13th September 1968 in Winson Green, Birmingham.
Signed: August 1922
Debut: 9th September 1922 v Wolverhampton Wanderers (a)
Career: Firshill Council School/Grimethorpe School/Albion FC (Sheffield)/Barnsley Aug 1911/Aston Villa Oct 1919/Manchester United Aug 1922/Watford May 1928/Hartlepool United’s player-coach May 1929/Wigan Borough am Oct 1929, pro. July 1930/Rhyl Athletic player-manager June 1931/Stourbridge manager July 1935/Aston Villa youth coach July 1935, appointed senor coach and head trainer Oct 1935/Swansea Town trainer July 1947-Feb 1954/Lye Town trainer July 1954, retired 1956.
Frank Barson was born in the steel city of Sheffield in Yorkshire in the spring of 1891 and was probably one of the most controversial footballers of his day. He had a huge chest and a twisted broken nose, which as a centre-half probably scared the living daylights out of his opponents. He was a boundless enthusiast which meant that he was an outstanding captain and a true inspiration to those players who he lead on the pitch. He started his working life as a blacksmith but it seems that he was so strong that he sometimes overdid it with his work. He had a desire to always be in the thick of everything which often brought him into conflict with the footballing authorities. It’s said that he was sent off 12 times during his career and was once banned for 6 months during his Watford playing days. There was a suspension following an incident in the Manchester derby in the FA Cup semi-final in March 1926, which was played at Bramall Lane in Sheffield. It was alledged that Barson had fouled Sam Cowan, City’s centre-half, who was knocked out. Despite not having been sent off during the match, Barson was subsequently suspended by the FA, for 2 months.
When he was bought by Aston Villa, who paid Barnsley £2,700 for him, it was the highest transfer fee in the history of football at that time. He won an FA Cup medal with Villa in 1920, the same year that he gained his one and only England cap. In the book titled 'The Essential Aston Villa', Adam Ward and Jeremy Griffin argue that: ‘Barson was a 1920s Stuart Pearce - feared for his biting tackles and competitive spirit, but admired for his ability on the ball." Barson developed a reputation for dirty play and was often booed and bated by opposing supporters’.-perhaps the reason for his one solitary cap. It seems that Frank was transferred from Villa because he refused to live in Birmingham, preferring to live back in Sheffield, which caused a lot of conflict within the club.
Alex Murphy argues in 'The Official Illustrated History of Manchester United' that: "The club had just been relegated, but they knew exactly what they wanted to revive their fortunes: a tough man to put some steel back into the side and inspire the men around him to win promotion. Barson was the right man. Just the fearsome sight of him was enough to demotivate some opponents: at 6 feet tall Barson loomed over most opponents and he had the sharp features and narrow, menacing eyes of an Aztec warrior."
Frank was a very popular player during his time at Old Trafford and helped United to promotion in 1925. When at the age of 37 in 1928 he left Old Trafford, he was given a free transfer but left with many accolades from his team mates, the supporters and the local press.
Apparently, Frank was promised a ‘pub’ if he captained United back into Division One. This duly happened and he took over at a hotel in Ardwick Green. The story goes that when he opened the doors for the first time a host of admirers went to celebrate, but they were so full of flattery that Barson soon got fed up. After 15 minutes he threw the keys over to the head-waiter and left, never to return, telegraphing his wife to stop the delivery of their furniture.
1966 was a great year for English football. Eric was born!