Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the passing of former Barnsley Football Club custodian Patrick Cryne.
When we welcome Accrington Stanley to Oakwell in Saturday's 3pm Sky Bet League One clash, we do so whilst taking a moment to reflect on the loss felt by all involved at Barnsley FC on that very day five years ago.
The late Patrick Cryne took control of the Reds - his hometown Club - back in 2003 and over the ensuing 15 years, his decisions and leadership helped see us through difficult financial challenges.
On the pitch, the Reds enjoyed promotion through the play-offs on two separate occasions, a run to the FA Cup semi final at Wembley and two successful days out at the home of football in 2016.
Whilst his loss impacted many at the Club, his passing - after a battle with cancer in 2018 - massively affected those closest to him.
His darling wife, Jean and beloved son, James remain part of the board here at Oakwell and we felt it fitting that ahead of this five-year anniversary, they themselves share their thoughts, their own words about the great Patrick Cryne.
Five years and yet it doesn’t feel like that. It gets easier they say. Well, you get on with it because you have to. Is that easier? I’m not sure. I am a big believer in coincidences and this doesn’t help. When I went to replace my car for example, the first time by myself, the music they were playing in the garage was one of the tunes we had chosen to play at Patrick’s cremation ceremony. Is that a sign? Who knows. The other day I was clearing out some stuff and found a pen with his name on it - ‘a man with leadership qualities, always thinking of new ideas’. These are the things you can’t get away from, they are here to stay.
New Year is a difficult time because Patrick was in A and E on New Year’s Eve and then in Christie’s cancer hospital until he died. How can you avoid new year? You can’t. How can your memories not flood with sadness? They can’t. You just have to put a brave face on it. I know many of you in the football family will experience similar sadness, and our thoughts are always with anyone facing such trauma.
My son, James and I still have to face criticism from some fans and I am sorry if you feel that way. He did it by himself with no help financially from anyone else and so hard decisions have to be made sometimes. ‘Young and hungry’ is a phrase Patrick used. I had to hear that from someone else for four years being flung all over Europe. Well, we are through that period. It’s tough but we have a board that are always trying to do their collective best for the Club now. Again, choices have to be made, the web of running a football club is massive. We have a wonderful staff who think only of their club. Yes, we make mistakes, but who doesn’t? Hopefully we can learn from them.
I am 70-years-old in March and I would have loved to have reached that birthday with Patrick but it wasn’t to be. We met at school and got married in 1975 so we were together a long time. We got married on a Tuesday because my parents were shopkeepers and it was their half day, if you remember them. We didn’t go on honeymoon and we had just enough cash to get us through our first Sunday dinner.
Patrick was very brave in his work life. He used to work for British steel then Barnsley Council followed by Huddersfield polytechnic. He did all his accountancy exams through part-time polytechnic classes . He hated it. He always wanted to work with computers but of course, then they were in their infancy so no school classes, no home computers. He then decided to go to London. He worked for City of London polytechnic and so did I. One day he took himself to KPMG - one of the big accountancy firms - and had an interview with them and got the job. We stayed in London and then KPMG wanted him to move north, to Manchester. Here he was made one of the youngest partners of the firm and following on from this he took one of the greatest risks and started his own company. It could have gone badly wrong but with hard work and no life, it was successful. Taking risks is hard to do but if you believe in yourself it can be done.
*I will offer 70 free tickets to be used by any ticket holder to bring someone new to watch a game in the hope that they will love it and keep coming. I would also beg of our fan base to try and do the same and encourage their friends and relations to come and see a game. We need fans, we need noise. Our head coach and players need you to raise the roof with noise and more noise. We can’t put everything right but we are trying. This is something you can do for Barnsley Football Club - YOUR CLUB.
We all quietly think of our loved ones we have lost, but we have our memories - good and bad - but we have them.
I was very fortunate to have known my Dad for 24 years. There are many people who do not get that privilege with their parents. Still I wish it had been longer.
I wonder, if he had still been around, what memories we would have created in the last 5 years. So many high points have occurred since his passing. He did not get to see the first automatic promotion since my family’s involvement. He didn’t get to see us make the Championship play-offs. And he missed Barnsley becoming one of Europe’s best pressing teams for 3 years. I’m sure all of those things would have brought him great pride in Barnsley.
Many new people have been a part of the Club that my Dad was never able to meet. I’m sure he would have been inspired by Stendel’s passion and amazed by Ismael’s almost analytically perfect playing style. Conversely, I’m sure many of the people who have been involved in Barnsley in recent times would’ve benefited from his mentorship.
I wonder which players would have become his favourites? My guess given his love for Neil Redfearn, Craig Hignett and Conor Hourihane is that Adam Phillips might have been his current preference. I imagine his immense pride that players such as Ethan Pinnock, who he saw sign but only briefly saw play, are representing Barnsley alumni at the highest levels.
There are also things I’m unable to imagine. There have been many lows during the last 5 years. The 18-game winless streak during 19/20, luckily followed by a great escape. Then of course last season during which being able to speak with him would’ve been a great comfort. Would these events even have happened had he been around? Perhaps his bravery and strong decision-making could have somehow prevented the low points from being so low. Perhaps his input would’ve prevented decisions that led us there from happening entirely.
The most important thing for my Dad as a custodian of the Club was firstly its survival and secondly that the town has a Club to be proud of. Results can be up and down, however the way Barnsley operates must be a way in which the hardworking and honest people from the town can have pride in. I think it’s fair to say that at certain points since my Dad’s passing that hasn’t been the case. It will take time but now the Club is back on track to being a reflection of the values of the town.
My Mum, my partner Farah and I will be making our usual trip over the Pennines to support the team tomorrow. And as usual we’ll head home afterwards either elated or deflated dependent on the result. The only difference is we won’t have Ocean Drive stuck on repeat thanks to my Dad’s poor DJ-ing skills.
*If you're interested in applying for one of Jean's tickets, to be used by someone currently without a seat at Oakwell, please email us HERE.