Fresh Air Tribute: Rest in Peace Ray Barlow
Today marks the passing of another football legend: Ray Barlow. Aged 85, Barlow spent the majority of his career at West Brom, playing in the legendary 1954 FA Cup winning team. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest ever players to grace The Hawthorns pitch.
Born in Swindon, he made his debut for the Albion in a wartime League Cup match against Walsall (the Albion lost 2-0 for the record) on February 3 1945. He played his final game in 1960, before making the short hop over to St Andrews to play for Birmingham City. In total, Barlow made 482 appearances for West Bromwich Albion and scored 48 goals. He also received one cap for England, being wrongly overlooked by the national side.
So what made him such a great player then? Originally, he was an inside-forward who was converted into a left-half. However, he was a player more than capable of jumping in wherever needed. Barlow was a natural footballer with a great understanding and love for the beautiful game. He was strong in tackle, a great passer of the ball and Sir Bobby Robson once said that Barlow was one of the best players he ever worked with, which considering those who played under Sir Bobby, is high praise indeed.
The Albion team in the 1950s was one of the finest that the Baggies have ever produced and the teams brightest hour was the 1953/1954 season, which saw them triumph 3-2 over Preston North End in one of the great Cup Finals. Barlow was instrumental in the team’s success and was famously fouled by Tommy Docherty, and the resulting penalty was duly slotted away by Ronnie Allen. The Albion finished second in the league that season and for a long time looked like becoming the first team to win the double in the 20th Century.
Later on in the decade, Barlow was to become captain and led the club on a landmark tour of the Soviet Union in 1957. As the 1950s wound on, Barlow started picking up injuries and in 1960 left to play a handful of games for Birmingham City. Soon after this, he went on to run a tobacconist and confectionary shop in West Bromwich. He later on to manage a Post Office in Stourbridge.
West Bromwich Albion and football in general have lost a true legend. Rest in peace Ray Barlow, you will never be forgotten by the Albion faithful.