Name: Barry Bridges
Born: 29 April 1941 in Horsford, Norfolk.
Clubs: Chelsea, Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, Millwall, Brighton & Hove Albion, Highlands Park, St Patrick's Athletic, Sligo Rovers.
Blues appearances: 104 (46 goals)
Barry Bridges was a fast, pacy forward who began his career at Chelsea in the late 1950’s. Despite being born in Norfolk in 1941, Bridges spent the majority of his playing career in London having first moved to the capital in 1958 after being spotted by Chelsea whilst playing for his local side, Norwich & Norfolk Boys.
At Stamford Bridge, Bridges was part of a youth set-up containing players such as Jimmy Greaves, Terry Venables, Peter Osgood, Ron Harris and Peter Bonetti. The forward made his debut for the club in 1959 as a 17-year-old scoring in a local derby against West Ham United. However, it wasn’t until the 1961/62 season that Bridges established himself in the Chelsea first team.
Following Jimmy Greaves' departure to AC Milan, 20-year-old Bridges seized his first team opportunity finding the net 20 times in that campaign, despite Chelsea being relegated from the First Division. Bridges continued to impress and helped the club return to the top flight at the first attempt.
His most prolific goals return came in the 1964/65 season when the forward scored 27 goals in 42 appearances. This coincided with a League Cup winners’ medal and four England caps in which Bridges managed one goal in a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia.
It was in May 1966 when Bridges left Chelsea for the Blues of Birmingham having scored 93 goals in 205 league appearances for the London club.
Recently-appointed chairman Clifford Coombes played a major part in bringing the England international to St. Andrew’s, capturing his signature for a then club record fee of £55,000.
“There were three Midlands clubs interested in signing me with Coventry and Leicester also bidding for my services,” remembered Bridges.
“Leicester were in the old First Division and they had a good side, including Derek Dougan, and were fourth in the league. Coventry were on a high under the management of Jimmy Hill.
“But what persuaded me to join Birmingham more than anything was the chairman, Mr Coombes. He was a great guy and wanted to put the club back on its feet. He told me that I was going to be his first signing and he really wanted me to join.”
Bridges spent two seasons in the West Midlands and continued his impressive goal record hitting 46 goals in 104 outings. In his first season he helped Blues to a League Cup semi-final against Saturday's visitors Queens Park Rangers as the club finished a respectable tenth in the Second Division.
In his second season with Blues the squad, containing players such as Fred Pickering, Malcolm Beard and Colin Green, reached the FA Cup semi-final and came up against local rivals West Bromwich Albion at Villa Park.
Despite losing the game 2-0, the team that manager Stan Cullis had brought together was beginning to impress.
“We had got a good side, particularly in the second season I was there. There were no superstars but we had some good players who worked hard for each other,” recalled Bridges.
The East Anglian-born forward called time on his Birmingham City career in August 1968 when he signed for Saturday’s opponents Rangers in a £50,000 deal and moved back to the Capital.
“I only left for personal reasons because I had to get back to the south and the club bent over backwards to help me,” he explained.
“It was really disappointing to lose two cup semi-finals - the League Cup in '67 and the FA Cup in '68 - but I had two good years at Birmingham and it was a lovely atmosphere.”
Bridges’ first season at Loftus Road coincided with the club being relegated from the First Division after finishing bottom of the league.
However, his second campaign for the club saw Bridges form a fearsome attacking trio alongside Rodney Marsh and Frank Clarke and the former-England international scored 24 goals in all competitions for Rangers during that campaign.
His QPR career was cut short in 1970 when Bridges was transferred to Millwall following a discussion with the Rangers chairman: “He told me that Millwall wanted me and that he needed the money to buy a younger player.”
At Millwall, he was part of the Lions side that were just pipped to promotion by Blues in 1972.
He recalled: “I remember at our last game a rumour went around the ground that Birmingham were losing which would have meant we were promoted.
“When the final whistle went all the crowd ran on and we were promoted in our own minds. The fans carried us around the pitch and took the shirts off our backs as mementos of the day.
“Then an announcement came over the tannoy that Birmingham had actually won 2-1 at Hillsborough. It is one of the worst memories of my football career.
“I have never seen anything like it. There were big, heavy dockers just standing there crying their eyes out.”
Later came spells at Brighton and St Patrick’s Athletic in Ireland, where Bridges became manager for a brief time. This was followed by a position at Sligo Rovers before he returned to East Anglia to manage Dereham Town and Horsford United.