Think Toshack had it bad? Meet Gavin Chesterfield

Posted on September 10, 2010


Barry Town manager, Gavin Chesterfield, is on a mission to deliver redemption for the club marred by false dawns and without a penny to spend, writes Luke James

AS John Toshack clears out his desk at FAWlty Towers, packing that lonely desk plant into a cardboard box and feeling the breeze as the door closes behind him for the last time, the Welsh football public might allow themselves to feel a little sympathy for Tosh.

After all, they’ll think, he hasn’t done such a bad job all things considered. He could only muster five out of a possible eleven players for the subs bench in his first game against Hungary in 2005 and it certainly didn’t get any easier during the next five years.

But if you think Tosh had a tough time of it as a manager then spare a thought for Gavin Chesterfield who has been boss at Barry Town since 2007, taking over a club that dominated the League of Wales since it’s inception but one that was firmly on a downward curve.

Barry playing at their temporary home near Pontypridd

Barry sank all the way down to Welsh League Division 2 and were evicted from their Jenner Park home after the rent became too high. The club that defeated FC Porto in the Champions League ten years ago were now playing their home games at pitch near Pontypridd.

Playing for pride

However, slowly but surely, Gavin Chesterfield has turned the team around and they are once again proudly playing their football at Jenner Park. Plus, for the first time since their relegation from the Welsh top flight in 2004, the Dragon’s now have their sights set on promotion back to the Premier League.

With no playing budget – the players only play for pride and the Barry shirt – Chesterfield will be heralded as a miracle worker in the seaside resort if he is able to steer his side back from the Welsh wilderness.

Chairman Stuart Lovering, who put the club up for sale in 2005 with a view to “a quick sale to a responsible new owner”, says the only way the club competes with better funded clubs in the division for players is because of its close proximity to Cardiff.

Although Chesterfield tries not to let the circus that is the clubs off field activities effect his plans he admits that “you have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and at Barry Town it goes all the way down to Plan Z.”

Off-field antics

This summer heralded nothing but another false dawn for Barry, a millionaire businessman called Clayton Jones had made an offer for the club but that had fallen down.

Part of the deal would have seen John Hartson, now one of a number of candidates in line to succeed John Toshack, come into the club as director of football.

John Hartson, now in contention for the Wales job, could have been a Barry man

“It was disappointing from the clubs perspective, my perspective and indeed for the current owner as well that the sale didn’t actually go through, I think it was something that we all wanted,” says Chesterfield.

It wouldn’t have been the first time a big name had arrived in that part of South Wales to attempt to breath life into the club. John Fashanu burst onto the scene in 2002 with plans to bring Nigeria’s best young talents to Barry but the former Wimbledon man walked out after he lost patience with fighting the Vale of Glamorgan council over the stadium lease.

Best squad yet

On the field, where Chesterfield has control, he has assembled a squad that he feels strikes the right balance between youth and experience and expects them to mount a title challenge.

“We have quite a lot of good young players, that’s the pleasing thing about the squad. Certainly in my time this is definitely the strongest squad I’ve had,” says Chesterfield.

But ultimately he and his team are at the mercy of off the field events, even if the team top the league at the end of the season they can be refused entry to the Welsh Premier League if they don’t meet the criteria set out by the FA of Wales.

And Chesterfield says that will be at the back the back of his mind this season.

“Obviously I suppose it is something that all clubs worry about, we all have to meet the domestic license now if you want to go into the Welsh Premier and yes I believe Barry Town deserves to be there but we have to earn that right now.

“In terms of the criteria needed there are a few areas we have to work on and the club are working on that as we speak.”

Barry fans will be hoping for those improvements rather than expecting, they learnt that lesson the hard way.

If Chesterfield can complete the turn around in fortunes he has inspired by putting Barry back where most believe they belong, in the Welsh Premier League, then he will be rewarded with the shot at testing his skills against professional clubs and European qualification.

But if Barry are dealt another sucker punch, don’t go up and Chesterfield is offered a job he can’t refuse I can’t see John Hartson, or anyone else, banging the chairman’s door down to take this hot seat.