Mates with Best, a jailed chairman & Redknapp the thief - the life of Fry

Barry Fry
[Getty Images]

Barry Fry is known as the king of the lower leagues, managing clubs such as Barnet, Southend United, Peterborough United and Birmingham City in a long and colourful career in management.

But his adventures as a manager - more than 32 years and more than 1,600 games - might never have happened if it was not for a decidedly more glamourous figure in the game.

Fry and George Best might seem like unlikely pals, but after meeting as apprentices at Manchester United, they struck up a friendship that endured for decades.

"He was a real good friend to me," Fry told BBC Scotland's Sacked In The Morning podcast. "In fact, I would not have had the career I've had but for Bestie helping me out when I started my managerial career at Dunstable.

"Dunstable had finished bottom of the league eight years on the trot. Nine after I took over in the March.

"One Sunday night I was visiting Manchester - one of my old haunts, a nightclub called Slack Alice that Bestie owned.

"I said to Bestie 'George, I've come to ponce a favour off you - play for Dunstable in two pre-season friendlies'.

"He agreed, but said Tommy Docherty held his registration at Manchester United. So I went there the next morning.

"'What makes you think Best will play for you at Dunstabubble?' Tom asked. 'I can't get him to play at Man United!'.

"He agreed and then said 'I'll bring a Man United XI to play you'! My first two crowds at Dunstable were 34 people and 43 people - it wasn't a crowd increase... I made all my family come from Bedford.

"Anyway, one Tuesday night, George Best guesting for Dunstable Town v Man United... there were 10,000 people inside Creasy Park. Another 5,000 in the High Street couldn't get in.

"We were on 'News at 10'. And we beat them 3-2. Dunstable had arrived!"

George Best before Dunstable Town took on Manchester United
Dunstable Town line up - with Barry Fry in the middle and George Best to his right - before taking on Manchester United [Getty Images]

'The chairman got six years for embezzlement'

It was the platform for Dunstable to prosper. They won the league the following season and, as Fry says, he "has never looked back since".

The following year they were flying in the Southern League Premier League - but this is Barry Fry, so of course there was drama...

"We were second in March," he said. "And my chairman, Keith Cheeseman, was arrested for embezzling three quarters of a million pounds.

"He had got me to get the names and addresses of all the players and families and relatives to organise a Christmas party. I got hundreds and thought no more of it after we had the party at Caesars. Brilliant.

"Then, in March, he was arrested at Creasy Park and got six years. He had taken £10,000 loans out in everybody's name.

"So we went for the last five weeks of the season without any wages. I phoned Luton Town manager Harry Aslam and asked to play a friendly with all the proceeds going to the players and their families.

"Then I phoned Bestie and told him the story. He said, 'thank God I never went into business with him, Baz!'. He came down and played in the game. Full house. So all the players got their money."

George Best
George Best always remembered Barry Fry's kindness in buying his 'comps', the tickets he got for free, in his early days in Manchester [Getty Images]

That would be enough drama for most men. But not Fry. Here are a few snapshots of his other favourite stories - you can hear the full versions on Sacked In The Morning.

Arrested on Christmas morning

"I was at Barnet and we needed to play on Boxing Day for the money. It was 'crispy' on Christmas Eve night, so I went to Underhill and got the tractor and roller out. Then there's all these lights come in the corner. I thought the Martians were landing. And there were 10 coppers with torches coming at me - I was taken to the station!"

'Harry Redknapp stole my player!'

I had this player at Maidstone, Mark Newson. He could play at the back like Bobby Moore - majestic, never gave it away. Or play in midfield like Bryan Robson - wins it, passes it, scores goals. Harry Redknapp phoned me up and I said '£300,000 for him Harry'. Harry said we didn't have him signed on and I explained it was because we didn't believe in tax, so we had players on non-contract forms but also a blank contract that they sign. So £300,000 to sign him. Harry replied that Mark had gone in my office and taken the contract out my drawer! I said, 'you tea leaf Redknapp - next time I see you, I'll blow your kneecaps off!'. Next time I saw Harry was at Ascot - he give me a 66-1 winner and we've been the best of mates ever since."

'Selling a villa, buying Peterborough United'

"We had a board meeting one night and the owner of Peterborough said he was putting the club into liquidation. So I said, foolishly, I'd take over. He doubted I had the money - he knew me. But I had a home in Spain, which I sold for £180,000, and I put that into the club. I took a second mortgage home to my wife Kirstine and said, sign this for £300,000. And, by the way, I've sold our house in Portugal for £180,000. She said, 'what, we're buying a mansion?' I went, 'nah, a football club'."

Barry Fry
Fry has been one of English football's most charismatic managers [Getty Images]
Barry Fry and Sir Alex Ferguson
Fry has had a long-standing friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson [Getty Images]