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Club News

My Wimbledon Story: Barry James

First instalment of our new series

19 October 2022

Club News

My Wimbledon Story: Barry James

First instalment of our new series

19 October 2022

You may know him as the man with the placard who took all the headlines, but there is certainly more to Barry James than meets the eye.

A talented footballer from an early age, the Wimbledon fan grew up on the streets of Fulham as he honed his skills whilst idolising the great players of his generation.

In association with our recent film Black, Yellow and Blue, Barry tells his story as he lifts the lid on his upbringing, his experience of football and of course THAT sign from 2002!

You can read the full transcript of the story below, whilst it is also available to watch in full on our Official YouTube Channel.

JAMAICAN ROOTS, BROADWAY DREAMS AND PUMA

My parents were from Jamaica. They came over here in the early 1950s and they had me, my sister and my two brothers. We lived in Vauxhall near Clapham Junction on Livingstone Road. I was mainly brought up in Fulham. I went to a comprehensive school called Henry Compton – I played football for the school and I was the only one in my family who was sports orientated.

My mum took me to Fulham Broadway and bought me a pair of football boots that made me look like Stanley Matthews. They had big round toe caps and covered your ankles. Further down the line I went on to wear Puma in order to emulate my heroes, Pelé and Eusébio.

FOOTBALL AND RASCISIM 

I started out with Kingstonian. I never received any abuse in that environment, there was a bit of banter in the home dressing room but I just took it in my stride because it wasn’t meaningful.

I was lucky when I was growing up, I only experienced a couple of instances where people shouted derogatory terms at me. I grew up with a load of white guys, they were my mates, skin colour never came into it. If anybody did abuse me my friends would stick up for me and deal with the matter.

PARSONS THE DON

When I lived in Fulham I used to come over to Plough Lane to watch Wimbledon play. Steve Parsons was a great player during previous times and he grew up in Ladbroke Grove. He hung out with a lot of black guys, so considered himself to be more black than white.

I remember being at a Tuesday night game when the ball came out for a throw-in. As Parsons bent down to pick up the ball he was right by me – I shouted to him “wagwan Steve” and he turned to look at me and said “irie” and then took the throw-in. That was a great moment.

THE PLACARD(S)

I remember going to the first match against Sutton United at Gander Green Lane when I had the thought: Wimbledon is going to be born again! I got hold of a placard that was lying around and just wrote down the words. I knew it would get press attention because it was short and snappy.

I took it to the game, held it up and everyone took photos of me. 15 years later we played back at Sutton in the FA Cup, on the night before I thought that it would be a good idea to do another one. I wrote ‘15 years ago AFC Wimbledon played our first game here, now we’re a League One side’, and that went viral as well. I was proud of it.

HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

I remember travelling around the countryside with AFC Wimbledon when we first reformed. We went to places like Ash, Sandhurst, Cove and Farnborough. I’d look around and I’d never think of myself as the only black person at the game.

Now I see black and Asian families at Plough Lane proudly sporting their AFC Wimbledon shirts – I didn’t see that sort of thing when I was growing up. It’s all come on a long way.


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