Time Tunnel - Les Barr
In the Tunnel today is Les Barr - The One and Only, the 75 yarder King of Links Park!
If you followed MFC in the 1970’s you will undoubtedly remember Les Barr. Even if you were not around in those days you will no doubt have heard about Les who is more frequently, even nowadays simply referred to as ‘The Legend.’ He first came to Links Park as a player in early 1971 and made 214 first team appearances before moving to his home town club Dundee FC. He made 103 appearances for them before finishing his senior football career again with Montrose with a further 213 appearances. He was a right full back, not that you would have known it though as he scored 62 goals in his senior career and though some of his goals were scored from the penalty spot he equally lashed in quite a few from every distance and angle of the pitch.
The Tunnel caught up with Les when he visited LP for the game against Rangers in December. I can tell you – he’s not changed much in the years he’s been away ! It is a privilege to catch up with Les and put him in the The Tunnel today to get his recollections of those goings on in one of our halcyon periods.
I think I got it right above but maybe you can briefly summarise your career in senior football.
Yes, I joined Montrose in 1971 from Stobswell Juniors and stayed at Links Park until 1978 when I was transferred to Dundee. I moved back to Montrose in 1982 and saw out my playing days there. That was not the end of me at LP however as I went back in 1989 for Jim Leishman and Cammy Fraser to coach the reserve team for 2 years.
Where are you based now and what are you doing these days?
I stay in Broughty Ferry, Dundee. I’m not involved in football now as music is my hobby. I don’t work either as I had a bad accident at work when I broke my leg but I still get about Ok now.
So, lets settle it – just talk us through that goal against Hibs and was it 30, 40, 50, 60 or more yards out?
I feel we could settle this once and for all because it stands vividly in my mind. It was just outside the 18 yard box at the mighty Mo shed end. A fluke it might have been, hurricane assisted it could have been, but Hibs keeper Jim McArthur came out of his goal with all reasons best known to himself. The ball bounced before him and then bounced about 5 times into the net. Kenny Cameron could have put it in but decided to let me have a moment of glory which will stay with me for the rest of my days. I think there was a bit of exaggeration to say Concorde did a loop the loop over Glaxo and that grown men wept and that the Chilvers factory came out to celebrate.
Another goal I recall was the penalty against Rangers in the Hampden semi-final. Tell us what you recall of that game.
The goal against Rangers in 1975 was special. I can remember changing my mind 3 or 4 times as I was going up to take the penalty. It seemed Peter McCloy’s hands were touching both posts so I just smashed the ball to his right. He got a hand to it but could not stop it. The most memorable incident in that game was when I clashed with John Greig on the halfway line. I was a bit dazed (he was a big lad) and when my focus came back he was standing over me with a vicious look on his face and saying ‘don’t come back son.’ I was only a young lad but I can remember that look on his face as if it was yesterday.
In your second spell with The Mo you collected a Champions medal as I think an ever present in the team. Tell us a bit about that season.
My second spell with MFC was very special under Ian Stewart and John Smith. They are the best coaching team I have ever been under, getting the best out of the players available. I don’t think I would have played as long as I did if it was not for their motivation and organisation. That was the main ingredient for the success we had in that spell. It was down to their management skills and their approach to games tactically. Awareness was top of the list, they made you feel as if you were a top player and they had us playing to our strength which was a solid back four. We had six 1-0 wins in a row and going to places like Stenhousemuir and Stranraer on a Wednesday night and digging out results was amazing.
Any other particular highlights come to mind from your days at Montrose, e.g. the Hearts games?
I remember the Hearts games alright. I can remember the first game against them as their fans were throwing their scarves on the pitch in disgust with only a minute to go. They were about to take a throw in which led to the equalising goal. He was about to take the throw in but there were scarves in the way so he stopped to move them, took the throw in and Shaw snatched the equaliser. I wonder if that pause to move the scarves resulted in us momentarily losing our concentration. Another highlight was that Hibs game of course as their side was full of internationals. Yet another great game was against Raith Rovers when the Mo overturned a deficit to win 5-4 – that was special. But although I played in those special eras my favourite memory was not on the pitch, it was after the Hibs game when we went into the British Legion after the game and this supporter asked me to sign his scarf with a black pen. He said he was going to put the scarf around the gravestone of his granddad who had passed away 6 weeks before and he had been an avid Mo fan.
In all the time I played I never saw him again and had never seen him before that night. Even now when I see Dave Smith and his mates they still speak about these two special eras with great passion and I have always said yes it’s great to be a footballer. But you ask any fan about games from the past and they will tell you things that happen during a game that you could never remember yourself. I love that enthusiasm.
Any cringe moments you care to recall?
No, none at all.
I guess it was a happy ‘dressing room’ in those days but tell us about some of the banter you recall and the nightmares in there, apart from you that is?
It was a very happy dressing room and that gave us the togetherness a team needs to be successful. The banter was great at that time and you would turn up with your toilet bag with bottles of shampoo, deodorant and by the time you left your bag was empty, players just helped themselves to your stuff. If big Dennis D’Arcy took your shampoo there was no way you were going to do anything about it. I used to put deep heat cream into 2 or 3 of the players underwear and as they were on their way out you could see them starting to scratch – great times.
I remember one really cold night we were training, I went back early to the changing room and made the tea for the boys. As they were coming in I was handing them their teas, they were sitting down cold hands around the cups and I said ‘how’s the tea lads.’ They were all praising me saying it was great when I pulled my muddy socks out of the teapot. They were spitting tea out all over the place. Those were some of the things that went on although others can’t be put in writing. (Ed: sounds like a few pints are going to be necessary!)
Who was the best player in the squad, apart from you?
It’s a team game but wee Gordon Crammond and big Bob Livingstone were blessed with real talent. Then there was big Dennis D’Arcy who let you know if you were not pulling your weight – a born leader. The fans loved those guys and it was a great team to be part of.
Who, apart from you, looked after their appearance best?
We had a goalie called Davie Gollan, a Dundee lad in the early 70’s always immaculately dressed even at training. Right out of Burtons window he was. The worst was probably myself. I would turn up for training after coming straight off a removal van after shifting pianos all day and still in my working gear. In fact where I stayed the pigeons were throwing bread at us! Thieves broke in once and re-decorated the place.
Which was your favourite away ground and why?
I loved going to Starks Park but my favourite ground was Rugby Park. It was always like a bowling green and seemed very wide which suited me.
Do you still get to watch Montrose these days?
Love to see the mighty Mo doing well. When you are with a team for 15 years you feel a bond with the club, the place, and the fans. I get up now and again but as I play music it’s hard to get up regularly.
What do you think is best, small divisions playing each other four times or larger ones playing each other twice?
Larger leagues playing each other twice only. Maybe I’m being unfair but I think if you have larger divisions you have more chance of more derby games and I just loved playing in those. I know a lot disagree but I think they should go back to sharing the gate as well home and away so we could all get a fair crack of the whip – just my opinion.
What are you most proud of in your total football career?
I was lucky to play in a league cup final, win the first division and play three times for the Scottish League Select but the thing that I’m most proud of is when I received the Player of the Decade award from the Montrose Supporters. I think if you are remembered by the fans who pay their money theirs is the greatest accolade you could wish for. Mo fans really are that special to me.
None with Montrose but with Dundee when I left I had the chance to go to Chicago to train a football team in USA – but no other regrets.
Anything else you would like to mention about your time at Montrose?
Yes, lots. I would like to pay homage and respect to all the backroom staff over the years at Montrose. The 70.’ Charlie Whyte, John Hannah, Carol and Sandra the tea girls. In the 80’s Brian Leiper, George Ferris and a young Montrose legend Andrew Stephen. Those people who are never in the spotlight are the backbone of the club. More important than anything else though are the fans.
Thank you for allowing me to give you an insight into my career, much appreciated. Les.
Ed: I’ve conducted some interviews in my time but this one with Les Barr is up there and in the words of that famous song ‘Simply the best, better than all the rest.’ Those words could also easily be said about Les himself. That’s not to take anything away from any other but I could feel the Montrose ‘thing’ oozing out of him. For people of the same vintage like me who watched many Mo games in his time with us I re-lived all those moments he described. A wonderful interview with a very special person (Les that is – not me!) Thanks Les, see you again at LP soon hopefully. Home is where the heart is.