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Peter Barnes

Peter Barnes, Head Boy 1962-1963, shares stories and anecdotes from an exciting career in football management.

We have heard the sad news that former Head Boy Peter Barnes passed away in March 2022. Here is an interview with him from September 2019.

Peter Barnes joined Freemen’s in 1954 and, in his final year, was Head Boy, leaving in 1963. After Freemen’s he worked in land surveying for British Rail but worked for Crystal Palace on match days both behind the scenes and selling tickets. Peter went on to work full time as Assistant Secretary for Crystal Palace in 1969 when they won promotion to the old First Division. In his career he also worked for Orient and Tottenham Hotspur, before joining West Ham in 2000 as Secretary before retiring in 2010.  

Peter explains how football wasn’t played during his time at Freemen’s. “I was a sporty type but there was no football in those days. We used to put coats down at lunchtime to make goalposts and play. There was never a shortage of people wanting to play!” 

Peter’s love of football started with his father introducing him to the game at a very early age: 

“My father was a footballer and cricketer. He used to take me to Crystal Palace. My first game I was four years old, just after the war. I had a football rattle, so my father wouldn’t stand with me in the grounds; if my mother knew I stood by myself he would have been in trouble!” 

Peter has worked with a number of football teams and has seen first-hand how the game has transformed. “Times have changed since I first started; there’s an increase in foreign players all with different cultures and ideas; you need to be able to manage them all. It’s important to keep them happy and when they’re injured, keep them involved.” 

Peter has had the opportunity to work with a number of managers throughout his career including: Terry Venables, Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley, Trevor Brooking, Gianfranco Zola and Gerry, plus several others. Peter comments: 

“Making a team successful requires good management to start with. The manager has to get that team spirit together. Talk to the team, keep them involved. Know when to put your arms around your players, or when to give them a kick up the backside!” 

“I tended to be the same whether win, lose or draw. I learnt that early on as people are looking to you to see how you react. Build the team up when they’re down and take part in the victories, but not too much! It comes back to what I learnt at Freemen’s – it’s all a balance!” 

Football is the fastest growing participation sport among girls and women in the UK, and there is considerable appetite to expand this further with significant investment. Peter comments on this recent phenomenon:  “When I started out it was taboo. When I was at Crystal Palace, the team wasn’t recognised. It was even frowned upon and the teams would have to travel great distances just to be able to play. However, now it’s encouraged in schools and the successes of the Women’s England team in recent years and league football has all helped.” 

The Holy Grail of football debates is always who is the greatest male footballer? One thing is for sure, there’s never a shortage of candidates; Peter’s vote, after much thought, goes to Sir Bobby Charlton: “I have seen so many great players. I would say Sir Bobby Charlton because he was a wonderful footballer, instrumental in Manchester United being the great team they were when he was playing and he became one of their star performers. He kept his feet on the ground and was never in the limelight. Now he’s gone on to be an ambassador for both football and the club.”