Next in the spotlight a goal machine from our Conference winning days and early seasons as a Football League Club.

Gary Bull, or “Bully” as he is known in the football world was born in West Bromwich in June 1966. His first club was Paget Rangers in the Midlands League but in 1986 he joined Southampton as a trainee before moving moving to Cambridge United in March 1988.

After two consecutive second placed finishes in the Conference in 1986-87 and 87-88 Barnet’s centenary season found them mid upper table mainly due to the demise of Newport County whose records for the season were expunged in April due to bankruptcy. Ironically Barnet’s performances against County were the best in the division and the club lost six points and an incredible 11-2 goal count. The club had also lost the services of goalscorers Gary Abbott and Nicky Evans and new blood was needed for another assault on the title. Bully along with Gary Poole and George Reilly were all picked up from Cambridge United by Barry Fry – the fee for Bull was estimated at just £2,200 one of the bargains of the century!

Gary made his Barnet debut at home to Cheltenham Town on the 18th March 1989 in the following line up:
Andy Lomas, Gary Poole, Edwin Stein, Darren Angell, Phil Stacey, Wayne Turner, John Docker, Derek Payne, Frank Murphy, George Reilly and Gary Bull. Subs David Sansom and Richard Nugent.
Barnet won 3-1 with goals from Reilly (2) and the man himself of course.

Over the next four seasons Gary Bull would become an icon at Underhill, not only for an incredible goal to game ratio but his outstanding link play with the likes of Andrew Clarke, David Regis, Frank Murphy, Harry Willis and more importantly with Mark Carter, and become that ultimate “Number 9”.

In 1989-90 another second placed League finish, this time to Darlington, ended with “Penalty King” Bull top scorer with 27 goals. Barry Fry has said “He was bloody good that Bully, I never had to worry about him being in the right place at the right time in front of goal it was always just pure instinct”.

In 1990-91 of course we did finally gain promotion to the Football League and frankly Gary's input to the season of 35 goals was simply massive and he was voted Player of the Year. Scoring four times in the first home game of the season in a completely one sided 6-1 massacre of Slough Town he picked up an injury missing all of September. On his return he thumped a hatrick against Cheltenham and then another four goal haul in the 8-1 thrashing of Fisher Athletic. In the 3-1 win at Kettering Town, I believe that Bull had arguably his best game in a Bees shirt. He scored two, the second of which was a gloriously controlled lob, and despite being hacked throughout 90 minutes held his composure and dignity. In another 3-1 win this time at Wycombe in the penultimate game of the campaign, in monsoon conditions, another outstanding performance saw Bully score twice in the first 3 minutes and set up a the excitement of the club needing just a point from their final game at Fisher Athletic to clinch the title.
Barry Fry and Bully

I am sure that virtually everybody knows what happened on Saturday 4th May 1991 at The Surrey Docks Stadium but for the uninitiated - Barnet won 4-2 after trailing 0-1 and 1-2. Harry Willis opened the scoring for the Bees with a header after Lowe had chipped the ball against the bar, David Howell powered in a headed equaliser leaving Gary Bull to steal the show with a turn a volley to dream about and final minute penalty with Bees fans already over the barriers ready to invade the pitch. Over 4,000 of them were present to see Edwin Stein presented with the Conference trophy at long last.

The first season in the 4th Division saw the club reach the playoffs and a two legged tie with Blackpool which was narrowly lost. Gary scored another 33 goals during the season alongside partner Mark Carter. In 1992-93 the pair again took the League by storm as Barnet finished third in the table and clinching promotion to what was then a reorganised Division 2, the highest point in the League pyramid the club has ever reached.

The administrative problems that decimated Barnet Football Club that summer are well documented and we all know if that squad had been kept together it would have moved on to greater things but it was not to be. Bully was “worth” a fortune, offers of £200,000 during the season were scoffed at by Fry and chairman Stan Flashman but the FA terminated his contract leaving him as a free agent. Gary told me recently at a Players Reunion of 1991 held in the Durham Suite at Underhill, “All the players knew we had something special and it is a shame that we never got to prove it!” I volunteered that with respect they already had. “I would have stayed at Barnet but I had a family to look after and had no choice but to move on – it was a memorable four years and certainly a period that I look back on with pride” he added.

His final game in a Barnet shirt was in a 4-1 defeat at Crewe Alexandra on 8th May 1993 in the following line up:
Gary Phillips, David Howell, David Barnett, Mick Bodley, Dominic Naylor, Kenny Lowe, Tony Lynch, Derek Payne, Nicky Evans, Mark Carter and Gary Bull. Subs Brian Stein and Jonathan Hunt.

Moving to Nottingham Forest - where he was dogged by niggling injuries - and then to Birmingham City and Brighton & Hove Albion Gary never reached the same heights as he did at Barnet. Two seasons at York City (including a goal as they beat Everton 3-2 in the second round 2nd leg of the League Cup) was followed by a spell at Scunthorpe United before a move to Grantham Town in 2000. By now aged 35 he was still rattling in the goals scoring 40 times in the League. A brief visit to Lincoln United was followed by a call from United Counties League Boston Town. Bully spent eight seasons there scoring 201 goals eventually retiring from football at the age of 46 in 2012!

Gary lives with his family in the West Midlands and as I mentioned joined many of his Barnet comrades for a reunion in December 2012. To tell you he hasn't really changed may seem a little strange after 25 years but the picture below will illustrate exactly what I mean.
I was like a pig in the proverbial as were many of his admirers that evening – the photographer, Ben Angel, was being called upon time after time.
Gary is more than just up there with Barnet's greatest ever goalscoring strikers as his record shows because he had extras going for him – fair hair good looks and a calm collected nature on and off the pitch which endeared him to Bees supporters as well as his fellow players – if you are ever fortunate enough to meet him you will understand.
Bully and Reckless 2013

Gary Bull : Appearances 219 Goals 121

No comments:

Post a Comment