BRIGHTON’S wingers in the 1991 Division Two play-off final had previously been on opposing sides in a Wembley final.
Mark Barham was a winner with Norwich City as they beat Sunderland 1-0 in the 1985 League Cup Final and Clive Walker missed a penalty for the Wearsiders.
Six years on, Barham had levelled for Albion in the first leg of the semi-final at home to Millwall (more of which later) and Walker got the third when the Seagulls upturned the form book and beat Bruce Rioch’s side 4-1.
The 6-2 aggregate victory pitched the Albion against Neil Warnock’s Notts County under the shadow of the famous Twin Towers of Wembley.
Walker saw a Wembley post prevent him from scoring as Brighton’s dream of promotion was ended in a 3-1 defeat.
Folkestone-born Barham joined the Seagulls on a two-year contract after an initial trial and made his debut as a substitute for Kevin Bremner in a 1-0 home defeat to Oxford United on 30 December 1989.
He got his first start two days later in a 3-0 defeat at West Brom, who he’d played for briefly earlier that season.
On the second Saturday of the new decade he scored his first Albion goal in a 1-1 draw at home to Barnsley and had played 18 games by the end of the season.
Young John Robinson was beginning to get first team opportunities but Barham managed 42 appearances in 1990-91, culminating in that Wembley appearance against Notts County, although he was subbed off on 10 occasions.
That play-off first leg game against Millwall was Lloyd’s selection in Paul Camillin’s 2009 Match of My Life book (www.knowthescorebooks.com). He said: “Perry Digweed put in one of his incredibly long punts and the ball was about to bounce on the edge of the Millwall box when the centre half (David) Thompson ducked under it, I think intending to allow it to bounce through to Brian Horne in the visitors’ goal.
“But as he took his eye off the ball he also turned his back and the ball actually landed on the back of his head and squirted off right into Mark’s path. The little winger raced in and cracked the ball into the bottom corner. It really was a vital goal so close to the interval and the fans knew it.”
With Robinson winning the shirt more frequently in the disastrous relegation season of 1991-92, Barham managed 25 appearances plus two as a sub but he was released at the end of the season and moved on to Shrewsbury Town.
Going back to the beginning, his football career began when he joined Norwich as an apprentice in 1978.
He was part of the City youth team that won the South East Counties League in 1979-80 and in the same season, at the tender age of just 17, the late John Bond gave him his first team debut. No fairytale start, though, as City lost 5-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
However, he went on to make himself a regular in the City first team, making 213 appearances and scoring 25 goals for the Canaries.
He also won two full England caps on the 1983 tour of Australia in a side captained by Peter Shilton and also featuring Trevor Francis and Terry Butcher.
Barham spoke warmly of Bond when he died in 2012 telling the local pinkun:
“When I first came up from Folkestone I had what you might call long hair. The first time he played me in a five-a-side in training he told me ‘I’m letting you play this one but if you don’t go out and get your hair cut you won’t be playing another one’.”
Barham continued: “He was my first manager, he gave me my debut at 17 and I went on to play for England so he must have done something right.
“He loved wingers but you had to adhere to certain rules. You had to play wide with your foot on the line, it was your responsibility to score goals, get crosses in and defend at the same time.”
A knee injury suffered in a match against Spurs was a major blow to Barham’s career. A ruptured ligament had to be replaced and he ended up in plaster for 14 months.
Although he remained at Carrow Road for four more seasons, Dale Gordon and Ruel Fox emerged as challengers for his place and eventually, in July 1987, Barham moved on to Huddersfield Town.
It was there that he teamed up with former Albion full back Chris Hutchings who spoke favourably about his time on the south coast with the Seagulls. Barham only played 27 games for the Terriers and, with former England striker Malcolm MacDonald replacing Steve Smith as manager, found himself released on a free transfer in 1988.
He joined Middlesbrough on an 18-month contract but as Rioch’s Middlesbrough were relegated he only played four games in eight months and was on the move again, ending up at non-league Hythe Town.
Determined he still had what it took to hold down a league career, Barham wrote to all 92 clubs. He joined Division Two West Brom and played four times for them but they didn’t keep him on.
“I knew I hadn’t suddenly become a bad player and that I could succeed again,” Barham told the Albion matchday programme in March 1990. “So I wrote to all the clubs again and that’s when Barry (Lloyd) contacted me. His was only one of six replies.
“Since being here I’ve found that all Hutch said about the club and the area was right and now I want to prove myself, show that managers were wrong to ignore me and enjoy my time in Brighton in the hope that my two-year contract will be extended.”
After the disappointments elsewhere, Barham certainly got his career going again at Brighton.
He scored once in eight matches for the Shrews but his career was on the wane in 1992-93 and he had short spells in Hong Kong and played non-league with the likes of Sittingbourne, Southwick and Fakenham Town, who he managed for 20 months from April 1996.
According to Mike Davage’s excellent article Canaries Flown From The Nest in the 1998-99 club handbook, Barham joined Mulbarton in February 1998.
At a Norwich centenary dinner in 2002, Barham told Davage he’d had more than 20 operations on his knee.
After retiring from the game he ran a toolhire business in Norwich and according to his LinkedIn profile he’s now a business development manager with facilities management company, Mitie.
- Pictures show Barham in Albion’s NOBO kit, from the Wembley play-offs programme, a portrait from a matchday programme and in a team line-up wearing the dreadful pyjama kit.