Contribution of Captain Marvel Micky Barron deserves to be recognised

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FOR those Poolies who scoff that the only good thing to come out of Middlesbrough is the A66, there are two words to say in response.

Michael Barron.

Twice a promotion winner, an inspirational captain and a hard-working coach at every level at Hartlepool United, Barron spent 18 years proudly serving the club he was synonymous with.

The expression ‘Hartlepool United stalwart’ scarcely does Barron justice.

But after almost two decades of service, Pools have shown their old skipper the door and granted him a mere 32 words on their website statement immediately after the announcement of the departure of first-team coach John Hughes.

“Hartlepool United would also like to thank Micky for his commitment and effort during his time as Assistant First and Reserve Team Coach and he also leaves with our very best wishes,” it read.

The statement finished with the line: “There will be no further comment at this time.”

Hopefully though, in the fulness of time, there will be a more fitting tribute.

It has to be said that Barron has seen his standing among Pools fans diminish over the last couple of seasons.

Acting as right-hand-man to Mick Wadsworth, Neale Cooper and lastly Hughes, many saw the 38-year-old as a common denominator in the club’s fall from League One mid-table security to hopeless strugglers.

An unfair assessment? Probably.

The same Pools players who have spectacularly failed those three first-team coaches have let down the man who worked with them on a daily basis at Maiden Castle.

That could be gauged during his second brief stint as Pools caretaker manager.

In his first match in charge after Cooper’s exit, at Brentford, Pools had fought back to draw 2-2, a good result considering the quality of the Bees side.

There was much positive talk in the aftermath of Barron’s bright, positive approach in training and the fast-passing drills adopted.

How sad then that in match number two, the team reverted to type and capitulated to a 6-1 FA Cup humiliation at League Two side Chesterfield.

True, Barron has to carry his share of the responsibility, given his input on the training ground and on match days.

But, you cannot help but feel that if the players had given just a percentage of the effort and endeavour Barron showed in almost 350 appearances for his beloved Pools then the club might not now be plotting journeys to the likes of Fleetwood, Accrington, York and Wimbledon. No offence intended to any of those clubs.

Barron simply sweated and bled blue and white.

Yes, there may have been more skilful and quicker players – and more popular – during the Barron years, but has there been a better, braver, more committed or respected servant?

Barron must go down as one of the most inspired bits of transfer business done by Pools.

First signed on loan from Middlesbrough in the early days of the 1996-97 campaign by then boss Keith Houchen, he spent half a season at the Vic and certainly impressed.

So much so that when Boro released the player they had signed as a teenager from Chester-le-Street youth side, Hilda Park, in the summer of 1997, Pools manager Mick Tait moved swiftly to sign him on a permanent deal.

Taity, take a bow, you played a blinder.

Barron may be remembered as a defensive pillar but back then he was also a midfield strongman, not averse to putting his foot in, and not averse to collecting a yellow card or two.

But his duties at the back are what he is best remembered for, with the occasional goal. Very occasional.

Unluckily for the lad from Lumley, near Chester-le-Street, his first-ever goal (a scrappy header in his 70th appearance!) was rather overshadowed by a screamer on debut by a certain Peter Beardsley (on his Pools debut) against Cambridge in January 1998.

But stopping goals has always come before scoring them in the Barron pysche.

In the days of a three-man central defensive combination, Barron was the player in the “sweeper” role.

He was strong in the air for a man under 6ft but, equally, it was his reading of the game and his will-to-win which made him such an excellent player at the back.

Certainly, the supporters recognised the young man’s qualities – he was named player of the year for his first two seasos at the Vic.

And when Chris Turner settled for a 4-4-2 formation, Barron ended up at right-back where he performed, as ever, with great consistency.

Consistency could well be Barron’s middle name.

His form and leadership were the key ingredients of the run of success under Turner which saw three successive Third Division play-off semi-final appearances which built up to the 2002-03 promotion triumph which was led by Mike Newell.

Barron was also the skipper for the club’s two best-ever seasons, under Cooper, from 2003-05, Pools finishing sixth each time and reaching the play-off final in Cardiff.

Leading the side out at the Millennium Stadium will go down as one of his most memorable moments though that Bank Holiday Sunday ended with injury and then heartache when Sheffield Wednesday overturned a 2-1 deficit to triumph 4-2.

Relegation followed the next season but Pools – and Barron – bounced back in style.

The skipper came on as a sub early in the win at Accrington Stanley and then played in every one of the 23-game record-breaking sequence which swept Danny Wilson’s team back to League One.

Just as proof of Barron’s influence, Pools lost only twice in the games he played the full 90 minutes.

That season he was awarded the Freedom of Hartlepool and he also had a street named after him in town, Mickey Barron Close.

He enjoyed a testimonial at Pools, highlighted by a win over Leeds United, but when his playing days came to an end, his contribution to the club continued.

Barron initially took charge of the youth team and then moved on to the reserves and enjoyed success with both.

Promotion to working with the first team squad following the departure of Turner early in the 2010-11 season was both inevitable and deserved.

There were some successes along the way in the early Wadsworth days, when there was even hope of a play-off push, but the last 19 months have been more barren than Barron.

He – and Hughes – have now been made to carry the can.

But the contribution of this Captain Marvel deserves to be recognised and, hopefully, he will be invited back to the Vic next season and get the hero’s reception he deserves.