The changing fortunes of old teammates – Barrow and Cribley

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Last season is still a bit of a mystery for me. Having a poor season is one thing, it happens to a lot of teams. But for us to have got relegated was unthinkable. I’ve got my own opinion on what happened, but that’s all history now. We just need to let it go and be ready for the challenge of bouncing back next season.”

The words of Graham Barrow speaking to the Evening Post.

Many of us would be interested in hearing Barrow’s opinion of what happened last season, but he seems unwilling or unable to make it public. Barrow rightly wants to move on and focus on next season. However, despite saying that last season is all history now, he moves on to talking about his role in Latics’ Freight Rover Trophy win thirty years ago.

The Chorley-born Graham Barrow has had a long association with Wigan Athletic. He was the most rugged and determined of midfield players, sometimes used as a centre forward, signed from Altrincham for £10,000 in August 1981. He was to become a key component in Larry Lloyd’s team that won promotion from the fourth tier and made 179 appearances, scoring 35 goals, in his five seasons at Wigan. He was “Man of the Match” in that 3-1 win over Brentford in that Freight Rover Trophy final.




Barrow moved on to Chester at the age of 32 and suffered five bookings in his first seven games for them. However, he was to make 248 appearances for them, scoring 17 goals. In addition to being captain on the field of play he became assistant manager to Harry McNally, then player/manager from 1992-94. As Latics’ manager in 1994-95 he helped them avoid relegation to the Conference. He was to go on to manage Rochdale, before a short lived return to Chester, subsequently taking the reins at Bury.

Barrow was brought back to Wigan as first team coach by Roberto Martinez in July 2009. On Martinez’ departure in summer 2013 and the arrival of Owen Coyle his future seemed in the balance. New managers tend to bring in their own right hand men, but although Sandy Stewart came in as Coyle’s assistant, Barrow continued as coach. He was to become assistant manager under Uwe Rosler, keeping the position under Malky Mackay and Gary Caldwell who were to follow.

Alex Cribley played in the same Larry Lloyd team and that Wembley final against Brentford. In fact he made 328 appearances for Latics over eight years. Cribley had been signed on a free transfer from Liverpool by Ian McNeill in November 1980 and his versatility made him a key player. His best position was probably in the centre of defence, but he was a solid right back and could lend a hand in a midfield holding role. Cribley went on to become club physiotherapist, being connected with the club for 35 years.

Cribley is perhaps one of the more unsung of Latics icons. However, when Mike Ashworth retired as club doctor in April after 33 years of service he spoke of his colleague:

“One thing I will miss more than anything is Alex Cribley. He was there as a player when I started so he’s been there longer than me, then he became a physio. He’s been a fantastic friend, a fantastic support, a proper professional and Wigan Athletic has been very lucky to have him over the years. I’m going to miss that day to day contact with Alex but I’ll keep in touch, I’ll still go to the games and hopefully get a season ticket now and go back to where I started.”

A couple of weeks ago a rumour went around the social media and message boards that Cribley had left the club. Soon after the kit manager, Dave Mitten, tweeted that he had been made redundant. Ironically Mitten still appears on the Who’s Who on the official club site, but Cribley has disappeared.

Given a drop of two divisions in a space of years and an almost 80% potential dip in revenue compared with the life at the top, Wigan Athletic have to cut their coats according to their cloth. It entails not only a mind shift  in terms of the kinds of players they will look to acquire, but also a fundamental restructuring of the auxiliary and administrative staff  at the club.

Put simply Latics cannot continue with a Premier League infrastructure in League 1. It inevitably suggests a huge cut in the total costs of players’ wages, but also a general downsizing within the organisation.

There are fans who will question the outgoings over the next couple of months, not only players but support staff. The club will look at getting the best possible infrastructure in place, within its new financial situation, for the start of the 2015-16 season. It is going to be a painful time for so many within the club, as redundancies will be announced.

David Sharpe is in an unenviable position in having to oversee the culls. He currently has the support of the majority of fans, despite the poorly handled departure of Emmerson Boyce. There are fans who will question the exit of such as the kit manager, citing that what he was earning was a pittance in comparison with what a player would earn. Those questions will continue as the downsizing continues.

However, past commitments and service to the club should at least be acknowledged, if not celebrated. Boyce spent nine years at Latics in their heyday and deserved more thanks than he got from a club that has not been strong in the human resource management aspect. It is sadly the norm in football clubs across the country, Latics probably being no better or worse than most.

Football clubs need to look forward to the future, but at least recognise people who have put in so much in the past.

We await news from the club on Alex Cribley.

Thanks to JJ of  for this post. 

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