“A real gentleman of the game”, that is the phrase that sums up Ben Embery perfectly and it is the one everybody who has played with him will use. Ben appeared in over 300 first team games for our club, most of them with that great side in the late 1960’s and early 70’s and was voted BFCSA player of the year in 1972.
|Ben Embery 1968|
Born in Barking in 1944, Ben started as an apprentice right back with the then unstoppable Tottenham Hotspur in 1960. Only a regular in the Spurs reserve side, such was the quality of that team, Ben moved to Exeter City in 1965 - “The wages and terms were fantastic, my wife Margaret fell in love with the area and off we went to Exeter!” said Ben.
In the Summer of 1968, long time friend and Barnet full back Jimmy Lyle suggested a return to London with the Bees in the Southern League.
“I had offers from Peterborough and Mansfield but I really didn’t see any future for me at that level, so after a meeting with Dexter Adams I joined Barnet. I utilised my recently achieved coaching badges and got a job at Upton House School in Hackney as a PE teacher allowing me to be part time at Underhill – the best decision in footballing terms I ever made. Dexter saw my potential and converted me to a Centre Half teaching me how to head a ball properly”.
“That was an incredible team and how we never won trophies I still cannot work out. Les Eason and Bill Meadows scored for fun while Paddy Powell used to destroy full backs plus we had Gerry Ward and Barrie King as the engine department. I built up a brilliant understanding with Gordon Ferry and we became firm friends. In fact that is one of the reasons why Barnet Football Club has a very special place in my heart, the camaraderie was fantastic and I honestly cannot recall any bad blood amongst us, believe me that was unique.” said Ben.
|Ben at Wembley|
“I can boast I played at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final in 1972, the pinnacle of my career. Unfortunately we didn’t do ourselves justice on the day and lost 0-3 to Stafford Rangers, but it was the most incredible experience”.
Ben featured in the FA tie against First Division QPR in 1973 when Barnet very nearly caused the upset of the season. After a amazing 0-0 at Loftus Road Rangers finally won the replay 3-0 at a packed Underhill.
“I can vividly remember early in the first game Terry Mancini completely taking me out, whack! In the replay Gerry Francis and Stan Bowles were magical and frankly we were on the back foot for most of the second half but I do recall going in for a tackle with Stan and him rolling around feigning injury. I just bent down and grabbed him by his long hair and screamed ‘f****** get up. That was totally not in my nature but I was so angry”.
I asked him what was his favourite game for Barnet and without a pause recalled being 0-3 down at Bath City at half time in the FA Trophy. “We sat in the changing room and Dexter convinced us we could turn it around. Jimmy Lye in slightly different words said ‘you are joking’ but we went out and scored four, Paddy Powell scored a hatrick!”
Ben eventually left Barnet in April 1975. Incredibly his last 4 games in a Barnet shirt were in goal as Jack McClelland has fallen seriously ill and the club didn’t have any goalkeeping cover. “We were relegated to Division One North that season and all my contemporaries had moved on. It was a very difficult decision because the club had been so good for me, and indeed towards me.”
Ben was approached by Gravesend who has just been promoted to the Southern Premier Division, he played 100 games for them before moving to Dartford where he soon lined up against his beloved Barnet complete with Jimmy Greaves. “Fifteen years earlier I had played with him at Spurs and now I was marking him at Underhill, fantastic. I then became what I called a jobbing non-league footballer and I loved it. I moved to Ilford and then on to Grays and finally onto Canvey Island”
The progression to a manager came naturally to Ben although he had no real ambition to do so at first. “I started managing a local boys club while I was still playing and it progressed from there. In 1983 I took over the mangers reins at Canvey Island FC. For the next 25 years Embery and his right hand man and best mate Steve Jackson became a management team together at Canvey, Great Wakering Rovers, Malden Town, Braintree Town, Concord Rangers - where he won the Essex Senior League in 2003/4 and Benfleet.
At the time of writing Ben lives on Canvey Island with his wife of 45 years Margaret. He has three children, a son John and daughters Jill and Dawn plus three grand children. Retired and a fit as a fiddle 69 years old he keeps in regular touch with me always keen to know the latest goings on with Barnet FC.
|Reckless and Ben 2007|