Barry's been brilliant at the Bridge Meadow - part 3

Barry with old friend John Gwyther, the ex-manager of Milford United

In our two previous articles on Barry Vaughan we have highlighted his early days as a staunch supporter of Haverfordwest County and followed this up with his reminiscences of his time as a football referee in the county – and in our third part of Barry’s involvement in Pembrokeshire Football we chat to him about his time as Hon Secretary at The Bridge Meadow Stadium, an involvement he has maintained to the present day.

It began at what was already a busy time for Barry because he had returned to the county after a stint as a hospital administrator in Saudi Arabia, about 60 miles south of Kuwait, and got the job as Hon Secretary of the Pembroke County Show.

So we’ll let Barry explain the rest of his fascinating tale:

Barry Vaughan - happy at the Bridge Meadow“In March 1998 I came home and spent five years running the county show, overseeing lots of changes like installing boundary fences, and changing the whereabouts of the different rings used to display cattle, horses and sheep, and organising the special events that have brought so many people to the show.

“There was often heated debate as people were set in their ways and resisted change – and a management committee of 64 members made it almost as tough as being in war-torn Saudi – but they were all eager to have the best for the show so that is what made me carry on with the role for five years,” admitted Barry with a chuckle!

Called to help out after terrific servant Cliff took ill

After one year of organising the showpiece of the Pembrokeshire Farming calendar and watching Haverfordwest County play in Welsh League football with his father Josh, Barry received a phone call from Roger Cotterill, then the Chairman of The Bluebirds, asking if he could pop down the Bridge Meadow Stadium

Roger explained that long-serving hon secretary Cliff Saies had been taken ill after 32 years of marvellous service and would be unable to continue and asked Barry if he would be prepared to take over.

Barry gave it some thought because of his involvement up the road at the Withybush Showground (where he stayed for another four years) and decided he could still organise the County Show as well as being involved with The Bluebirds so he could manage both.

“It had almost brought me full circle back at the club I had watched from the age of four

and it eventually became a full-time role because we had a committee of 25+ members and also ran Preseli Taxis, with five cars and 12 drivers.

”We also had the Bluebirds’ Tote as a huge venture but luckily we had Kenny Ellis doing an excellent job, which I really appreciated!”

Started off with a horrible task – and more bother followed

Barry - a really good sport, as recognised by a while ago!Barry set out at the end of the season and with Ray Davies and Mark Hopkins, two great former players, as the management team it seemed plain sailing – but after a very short time he had the horrible job of telling them both that their services wouldn’t be required for the next campaign.

“I phoned ‘Hoppy’ to give him the bad news and he said he would phone Ray so it wasn’t a nice thing to have to do – but before the start of the next campaign we had Eddie May lined up to take over. Eddie had played for Southend, Wrexham and Swansea to name a few of his clubs and after being assistant boss at Leicester City and Charlton Athletic he managed Newport County, Cardiff City (twice),  Barry Town, Torquay and Brentford so his pedigree was excellent.

“Eddie and assistant David Ellery took the pre-season training for 1998/99 and I got on really well with him and the players thought he was terrific. But then he received the offer of a job in Norway and was off – leaving Ellery to take over as manager after previous stints at Bridgend Town and Britton Ferry.

Tough going after promotion to the top echelon

“We had previously gained promotion from the Welsh League and to be honest it was hard going at the higher level because there were very strong teams like Llansantffraid (later New Saints), Newtown, Bangor City and Cwmbran Town, who became the first champions.

“We didn’t have a bad side with players of the calibre of Jason Jones, Neil Frederickson and Nigel Stephenson (ex- Swansea and Cardiff) and managed to avoid relegation but the following season saw Barry Town return from the Southern League and they dominated the League of Wales for a number of years.

More work as documentation crept in

“The work really exploded as new regulations were brought in which required an enormous amount of work, like being totally involved in the new licencing requirements at clubs alongside the establishment of academies, which also required huge amounts of documentation, coach education and financial matters, as well as dealing with all the referees.

“Throw in the fact that we were running Preseli Taxis and it was fair to say that my job at The Bridge Meadow had become a full time one! One of the worse moments came in 2001/2 when we were rocked by a tax bill for close on £100,000 from HMRC – with the sums charged going right back to 1994.

“Although we managed to get it down to under half that amount it still meant we had to sell our social clubhouse close to the town centre, which was a body blow.

Amazing seasons, including an Icelandic adventure

Barry and current chairman David Hughes“We survived until the changes whereby the league set-up had reduced from 22 to 18 and then to just 12 but we battled on and in 2003 we had an amazing season under Deryn Brace and Mike Lewis, when we came third in the Welsh Premier behind Rhyl and Llansantffraid (now New Saints).

“That success saw us qualified for Europe and Deryn, the late Des Shanklin (a brilliant club chairman) and I had to fly out to Geneva for the draw – where we came out of the hat against the Icelandic team with the longest name: Fimleikafelag Hafnarfjardar!

“We had to play our home tie at Ninian Park, the home of Cardiff City, who were brilliant to us and didn’t charge us a penny other than legitimate expenses, thanks to Des’s involvement.

“Sadly, we lost 1-0 at Ninian Park and I joined Ronnie Beynon in sorting out most of the arrangements for travel but Mark White of Ockie White Travel was brilliant but it was still difficult for us, because it was played in July and we had lost several key players and had some injured so we travelled with 45 players, officials and supporters with a makeshift squad that included youngsters like Lee Hudgell, Haydn Ralph and Dean Rossiter.

“We actually scored the first goal through Tim Hicks to level the tie but the Icelandic team regained the overall lead within 30 seconds before we eventually lost 3-1 – and although it was a great adventure we actually lost £10,000 on the fixture, despite that fact that only the team and managers didn’t pay!”

So close to a Welsh Cup Final

Barry Vaughan, always happy at his desk at the Bridge MeadowIn the following season Haverfordwest came fourth and reached the semi-final of the Welsh Cup against Carmarthen Town at Stebonheath Park, Llanelli, after winning at Aberystwyth in the previous round.

“The club had huge hopes but had key players like Wyn Thomas and David Barnhouse were suspended or injured but still had chances to win the tie.

“We eventually lost 1-0 and I can still recall vividly walking into our changing room and seeing how gutted Deryn was – and I still think that was the best side we’ve had during my involvement as Hon Secretary.

“Lee Kendall was a top keeper; Deryn Brace and Wayne Jones were strong at full back alongside Wyn Thomas and David Barnhouse, with Colin Loss, Darren Ryan, Chris Miller and Adi Harries heavily involved; plus Tim Hicks and Rhys Griffiths playing key roles, and with Ritchie Adams just starting out up front.

“Kendall was the best keeper during my time, Brace was a star after playing so long at Wrexham, Harries was so destructive in midfield, Ryan rarely gave the ball away wide out on the left after learning his skills as a former pro player at Hereford, Newport County, Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury – whilst in his prime Tim Hicks could make scoring goals look easy and I once saw him play against Connors Quay at the Bridge Meadow and score five goals in the 20 minutes before half time!

And finally . . .

“As well as Deryn Brace and Mike Lewis, other successful managers included Derek Brazell, who had played for Manchester United, John Lewis (ex-Newport County and Cardiff City), Neil Frederickson and Jason Jones, Wayne Jones and Sean Cresser, Mickie Ellis and Chris O’Sullivan – and to be honest I got on well with all of them.”

The same could be said of the players and there is no doubt that Barry Vaughan is still held in huge regard by other clubs at the top echelons of Welsh Football.

“I have enjoyed working with Rob Summons and David Hughes as chairmen and I’m now club secretary, taking the minutes at the meetings of the six directors, of which I’m one, without all the complicated stuff that being secretary of the football side requires now.

“The regular supporters have also been characters and I was pleased to be instrumental in ensuring that John Hughes and Kenny Roberts received recognition by the FAW for 20 years’ service; their awards being made at Welsh Premier League dinners.

“I still love attending matches at The Bridge Meadow as much as ever and once this awful virus is halted I shall be back there, alongside the genuine characters who sit in the low stand nearer the road, cheering The Bluebirds on, win or lose as I’ve always done.”