Walley Barnes – Captain Of Wales
GCR Books continues its very welcome series of Arsenal books, republishing what are rightly held to be footballing classics. The latest in the series is Walley Barnes, “Captain of Wales“.
Barnes was an erudite man who led by example on the pitch, a League title and FA Cup winner in the immediate post-war Arsenal. And yet it was a career that so nearly never happened. Born in 1920, Barnes served in the Forces during the Second World War, playing for Southampton. When Tom Parker, the then manager, left following a disagreement with the Board, his final act was to offer to find clubs for the guest players, those who were serving and based close by.
The last player he spoke to was Barnes, telling him that he need not bother naming a club, he was joining Arsenal. It was the second time fate played a hand in his fledgling career, a Portsmouth scout had spotted him playing in a non-league match whilst catching his breath on a bike ride. They don’t make careers like that any more.
Not that it was all plain sailing. A knee injury sustained in an Arsenal Reserves match threatened to end his career but Barnes recovered and would play in every position for the club during his time at Highbury. He switched from Left Back to the right when Laurie Scott vacated the role and would have won more were it not for an injury sustained in the 1952 FA Cup final. Forced to leave the pitch, Arsenal played on with ten men only to lose 1-0 to Newcastle United. The injury plagued him and he missed out on the title-winning season in 1952-53 entirely.
Having managed Wales for two years whilst injury took its toll, Barnes moved into television following the path trodden by George Allison at the BBC by presenting the FA Cup final programmes for broadcaster and the first Match of the Day in 1964.
A huge pat on the back for GCR Books in their endeavours to republish the books, this one can be bought directly from them here.