After a brief summer break, the ‘Where are they now?’ feature returns with a look at what Scottish striker Barrie Mitchell is up to now. The former Preston and Dunfermline striker spent three seasons at Tranmere in the 1970’s.
- This article was first published in August 2005 (By Richard Ault)
As Ron Yeats looked to pull his Tranmere side away from the relegation trap door at the bottom of the old Third Division in February 1974, he looked north of the border to sign powerful striker Barrie Mitchell from Aberdeen.
Mitchell made his name in Scottish football with Dunfermline where he had made more than 150 appearances and gained experience playing in some fiery European encounters. The Pars team at the time was becoming a strong force, and Mitchell remembers his European days with great detail.
“We were a very good side then, Dunfermline were second only to Celtic at the time. In my first season of playing in Europe, we got to the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup and were beaten by Slovan Bratislava.
“The next season we qualified for the inter-cities (Fairs Cup) and we played Anderlecht in the quarter-final. They beat us 1-0 out there but we beat them 3-2 at our place and went out on away goals.”
He found the back of the net three times in total whilst playing in European matches. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the atmosphere on the continent could get somewhat hostile and could often spill over onto the pitch. The hostilities went one step further in a game at Bordeaux, he recalls.
“We had one very bad experience at Bordeaux. We had beaten them 4-0 at home and they had two sent off. When we went over there they had built it up in a big Catholic versus Protestant way. They beat us 2-0 and there was quite a few fights and battles going on all over the place, including in the tunnel after the game.”
Mitchell’s all-action style of play saw him pick up a couple of suspensions in European games, not least after a heated exchange in a game in Greece.
“I was sent-off twice, both were abroad. Once was against Olympiakos in the second round of the Cup Winners Cup when we got into the last 16. I missed the two quarter-finals as a result of it.
“It was fine as I was only a young kid. Someone came in with a late challenge – let’s just say I got my revenge.” he joked.
After five action packed years at Dens Park in which he scored more than 50 times in 169 appearances, Mitchell moved on to home-town club Aberdeen, a move he describes as “the biggest mistake of my life”. A less than successful spell at Tannadice was summed up by an injury, and just five months later, Mitchell joined Tranmere.
” It wasn’t working out at Aberdeen and I knew that and thought ‘I’ve got to get away’.
“Our manager came down to watch Preston but the game was cancelled, so he watched Tranmere instead. Ron Yeats was struggling a bit in the league and wanted forwards.
“They talked to me about it and I said ‘I’ll go down and have a look and see’. And it stuck, I had three great years.”
Mitchell pictured during his Tranmere daysAfter helping steer the club away from the relegation zone and to a comfortable mid-table finish, the second season didn’t quite go as he had hoped. After picking up an injury in a game away at Wrexham, Mitchell opted to move to Canada to play for Vancouver in an attempt to improve his fitness. Rovers were relegated and he managed only a handful of games that season.
After regaining his fitness and taking the player of the year award with Vancouver, Mitchell returned to Prenton Park in time for the 75-76 season. It turned out to be a great season for both the player and the club, as Rovers were promoted back to the Third Division at the first attempt.
“I came back to Tranmere and was played in midfield, I was flying. We got promoted in that year and I played 43 out of 46 games. I missed one game because my clearance hadn’t come back from Vancouver for the first game of the season and missed the other two due to injury.”
Despite the success of the previous campaign, he couldn’t agree a deal with the Rovers board to prolong his stay, despite manager John King having been in favour of a new deal.
“I was disappointed to leave, it was a smashing wee club and I really enjoyed it.” he revealed.
He made the short trip to Lancashire to play for Preston North End, and again, his time at a new club started very brightly.
“I scored in my first game. I was sub, I think we were playing Brighton, and we were getting beat with 5 or 10 minutes gone. I came on at half-time and scored just afterwards with a header.
“Then I got a couple of games. I scored two in four games, then got a hamstring injury and was out for seven or eight weeks. Then I came back and scored another two in four games, which isn’t bad.”
After falling out of favour at Deepdale, Mitchell went on to have brief spells with York, Grenock Morton and Wigan in the same season before deciding to hang up his boots. Whilst many footballers now can retire from the game and look forward to the easy life,. this was most definitely not the case then, and Barrie remembers what came next. His first trip to the job centre.
“I’ll always remember this. There was this young girl taking my details.
She asked: “What do you do for a living Mr Mitchell?”
“My last job was playing football” I replied.
“We don’t get many of them in here” she said.”
After spending seven years managing supermarkets, he moved into running pubs, a profession he remains in today. His love for the Wirral means he has remained here for the most part ever since his days at Tranmere.
He is currently the landlord of the Coach and Horses, a small but friendly pub in Greasby, a “nice area with nice people”.
Although his first love in football was Liverpool, he still attends Rovers matches when possible, his last one being the 5-4 defeat at home to Bradford City last season.