BY NICK WELLS
On an autumn day in 1968, Jack Barrett stood before a gathering at the Bold Street Working Men’s Club just outside of central Accrington and sold the group on fighting to keep their football team alive.
Accrington Stanley, the team Barrett had supported all his life, had resigned from the Football League in 1962 after racking up debts of 63,000 pounds.
A brief comeback had occurred but financial difficulties had weighed down the club leading to a final dissolution in 1966.
It was a dark descent from being one of the original founders of the Football League.
But they had faced tough times before. Accrington Stanley’s predecessor “Accrington” had resigned from the Football League in 1893, five years after helping found it.
A variety of groups had tried to come together to save the club but none had managed to pull a plan off.
The club had been officially disbanded and supporters were in disarray.
"All the fun had gone out of the town and it was a miserable place to be. It was like there had been a death. No-one was talking,” Barrett said in an interview in 2006.
That’s when Barrett saw an ad about the meeting at Bold Street and ventured down to see what was being proposed.
Unsatisfied, and possibly more than a little riled up from hearing the then-mayor of Accrington unsubtly inform the crowd a revival was near impossible, Barrett stood and delivered a speech to the crowd appealing to the gathering to save a part of their town’s identity.
Accrington Stanley was reborn.
Barrett and several other individuals were thrust into prominence as the founders of the “new” Accrington Stanley.
But Barrett wasn’t done there. He would later organise a march from Accrington to Liverpool to raise money for the club.
Success took time at the club. It had essentially begun life as a new entity, bar the name of its predecessor, and needed to find its feet in the lower rungs of English football.
It slowly worked its way up the leagues, reaching the Conference in 2003 and the Football League in 2006.
Barrett was there every step of the way. He served as secretary of the committee with the club for 10 years and was made a life member in 1971.
His importance to the community was recognised in 2011 when he was given the Freedom of the Borough of Hyndburn, which Accrington is the centre of.
Barrett died in 2013 at the age of 88, leaving behind a community indebted to his contribution.
Six months later, the club formally recognised his contribution.
The supporters club and the football club joined forces to unveil the Jack Barrett Memorial Stand, becoming the name for the old main stand on the north side of the ground.
The stand covers half of the north side of the pitch, sharing the side with the John Smiths Stand.
The main stand had been rebuilt during the club’s stint in the Northern Premier League in the early 2000s and is now an all-seater.
"The plaque and stand are wonderful, we are so grateful to the fans, the supporters club and the football club for the kind gesture,” said Barrett’s eldest son Stephen at the unveiling.
Primarily housing home fans, the supporters can take inspiration from the lifelong support of the man the stand is aptly named after.
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