Monday 22 January 2018

Sweet 16: In his own words, Barry Conlon describes his moves

Queens Park Rangers

August 1995-May '97; 0 appearances

I was very inexperienced leaving Carrick. They gave me a card for the Tube. I thought a tube was something you ate Smarties out of. I'd worked in a sweet shop for my mother before I left. I hadn't a clue what was going on. I'm walking down the road to people saying 'what's the craic?' and they are looking at me thinking 'mental'. That was my first experience -- people thought I was a weirdo. I did my apprenticeship and the boys from home would be ringing me saying "Conlon, how you getting on over there?" I was loving it, but at night-time, lying on a bunk bed or sleeping in digs -- that wasn't much fun.

manchester city (permanent)

July 1997-September '98; 8 apps, 0 goals

When I got released by QPR, I cried. But I got a phone call from Brian Kerr saying I was in an Ireland squad. I'll never forget it, getting the piece of paper. How could I be when I was just rejected? I scored a few goals, and then I signed for Man City. I could have gone to Middlesbrough. I did a medical for Bryan Robson and I'd scored a hat-trick for their reserves. But I was greedy as a young lad. Man City offered me more money so I signed for them straight away. I made my debut coming on for Georgi Kinkladze -- it was probably the best feeling of my career coming on for the best player I've ever played with. The fans cheered me and I think my old fella had a tear in his eye. It was a great club, full stop. You'd come into training and everything was right. It just had a certain something about it. You know, as a human, you feel like the man. It made me want to train more.

Plymouth (loan)

February-May 1998; 13 apps, 2 goals

I went there on loan. I remember I had a Renault Megane Coupe. I'd just passed my test and a lad called Phil Starbuck drove it to Plymouth because I didn't want to drive that far. Five hours or so. It was a bit away from everywhere. We had beds on the buses for a lot of the away games. I did enjoy the football, but coming to England was far enough for me in the first place, never mind going to Plymouth. The local derby was a few hours journey. I scored a couple of goals but it doesn't stick in my mind really.

Southend (permanent)

September 1998-May '99; 36 apps, 7 goals

It was a good year(smiles), it was a very good year. Seven of us living in an apartment block on the seafront, I reckon that says it all. Football came second. Good times. I remember driving up and down the seafront, seeing who had the best car and stuff. I bought my first BMW at Southend. And Essex girls . . . I remember driving up and down the seafront thinking I was cool. The Irish accent went down well.

York (permanent)

July 1999 -- May 2001 -- 54 apps, 11 goals

I moved there, and I enjoyed my football at York. The fans didn't take to me at first. I put the graft in, and I always gave 100pc so the fans took to me. Sometimes it's 50-50 with fans. They don't like you or they love you. I was God one weekend, not the next. Looking back now, I must have been a target for some people . . . they thought I had potential, so fans would say I should have been doing more. If you got two goals one week, they'd want four the next.

Colchester (loan)

November 2000-May '01; 28 apps, 8 goals

I bought a cat called Bob. I scored a few goals, and I was a fans' favourite at the time. They wanted me to stay on there, and a few of the fans wore bald wigs, or swimming caps I think it was. I remember my family were over and luckily my brother got a few pictures. He was thinking it was a bit mental.

Darlington (permanent)

July 2001-May '04; 125 apps, 42 goals

I have a love for Darlo because of Dave Hodgson. I played some of my best football there in the old ground, in Feethams. It was horrible, one of those places people didn't like coming to, but I enjoyed that side of it. To this day, I still enjoy the old-style ground. People say "I don't like going to shitty grounds" but I love it. The nasty side of it. People forget when they were 12, 13, and 14 they were playing on bad pitches. I didn't like the new stadium at Darlington. I scored a few goals there alright, but I was never quite prolific. But even when I wasn't scoring, I was on top of my game.

Barnsley (permanent)

July 2004-May '06; 41 apps, 8 goals

I fell in love with it straight away, and the people were great. But it was one of my biggest nightmares because that's where I did my knee. I was even told I might never play again. It was microfractures in my right knee but I played on. Paul Hart was manager and I was getting injections every week. I had a double-hernia as well. It was one of my best times apart from the injuries.

Rotherham (loan)

October--November 2005; 4 apps, 1 goal

I went to Rotherham on loan when I had my injuries. Mick Harford was manager there and I can remember him saying: "This isn't Baz Conlon, one of the hardest lads in the game." He went nuts with Barnsley because they knew I was injured. It was a short spell.

Darlington (permanent)

June 2006-January '07; 23 apps, 6 goals

My knee still wasn't right. Hodgey signed me because I'd played for him when I was there before. But I didn't get the proper rehabilitation. It was okay, but I know myself that I wasn't fit and didn't get the right treatment.

Mansfield (permanent)

January-May 2007; 17 apps, 6 goals

I went there and scored a few goals but it was one of those clubs, you were just lonely. My knee still wasn't right. Billy Dearden, the manager, was old school. Billy was a legend. He'd bring us for a walk in the Derbyshire Dales the day before a game. I'd seen a few things in football but . . . He'd be saying "this is where I bring my daughter. It's a nice fresh day, isn't it?". I'm walking behind and I'd say, "Yeah, it's beautiful Billy but we've got a game tomorrow". He was one of the most laid-back managers, but he had a lot of time for me and I had a lot of time for him.

Bradford (permanent)

July 2007-May '09; 80 apps, 18 goals

Loved it. The fans were 50-50 with me. I had a run-in with the manager. Me and a lad called Matt Clarke -- we were badly late for training one day and were punished. But Stuart McCall was class with me. I was a Celt and he was a Rangers lad and we used to clash banter-wise. The only problem I had with him is that I'd score a goal one week and then he'd leave me out. If a manager doesn't play you, then you don't like him. But he was different -- I liked him -- and he would always try to explain it to me and give a reason.

Grimsby (loan)

March-May 2009; 8 apps, 5 goals

I went there, and they were more or less relegated. Mike Newell was in charge, a legend. My father came over to see me play for Bradford, and I signed for Grimsby on the Friday so I had to tell him. He thought I was mad, because Grimsby were all but relegated. The lads just needed a lift, so I just went in there with nothing to lose. I was banging in goals left, right and centre and helped keep them up . . . though I'm sure there was some other lads involved as well!

Grimsby (permanent)

July 2009-January 2010; 19 apps, 5 goals

I was travelling from Leeds every day and didn't enjoy it. When I was on loan, I didn't really think about it. When I signed permanently, I realised it was taking me two hours getting to training every morning and two hours back. My heart wasn't in it. That's the truth. I'd get out of the car and I'd be like "I just want to go to bed". I had no life apart from football and driving. Mike Newell left and Neil Woods came in -- the youth team manager. He was clueless. Seemingly, there was a fans' forum where I was described as a disruptive influence. But if I'd played a few more games, my contract and money would have gone up. He had his opinions, and fair enough. But I started hearing stories around about myself in the dressing-room, and what I'd been up to, and they were new to me.

Chesterfield (permanent)

January-May 2010; 19 apps, 7 goals

John Sheridan is crackers, but he was class to work with. From Monday to Friday, a sound man. On Saturday afternoon, if you gave the ball away, he'd go mental, because he was such a good player himself. I remember flicking a ball on and he was saying, "Baz, get after it." I was like, "I'm sure I'm just after flicking it on." Before I joined, I thought it'd be a nice little club for me to go to. I was on the transfer list at Grimsby. There were five of us on it, and I was the only lad to get a call from another club, so I agreed to join Chesterfield on a permanent deal until the end of the season. The other lads got fully paid up on their contracts. I was devastated. How's your luck? We lost out in the play-offs last year, and John said he had to change things around. Summer was coming, so we parted company.

Stockport (permanent)

July 2010-present; 10 apps, 0 goals

I had options abroad, and a few in League Two. Nothing crazy. I was back in Ireland for the summer, and had a few calls from Australia, and Belgium. I spoke to Dundalk, but I wasn't happy with the offer. I spoke to Brian Kerr as well and asked his advice, but I came to Stockport and moved from Leeds to Wilmslow. I'm living in an apartment that belongs to Andy Dibble, who used to play for Man City. I'm still getting used to the place to be honest.

Irish Independent

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