Some may be surprised at the inclusion of the player signed by Kenny Dalglish from Sunderland for £200,000 in July 1986. He wasn’t a bad player by any means, but that’s not what this top ten is about. It isn’t the ten worst players, it’s players who weren’t the best but had something about them that was pretty funny or endearing. In Barry’s case, it was his haircut and his wardrobe!
He was a steady full back, a decent back up but never really good enough to be a regular starter. He wasn’t quick, wasn’t particularly skilful or good going forward, but he was a good competitor and steady defender. ‘Solid but not spectacular’ would be the best way to sum Venison up on the field. Off the field was a different story. Sporting a mullet that Michael Bolton would have been proud of, Barry had a penchant for outrageous clobber, and was a constant target for ribbing from his team-mates. With a wardrobe so colourful it made John Barnes look positively dull, Barry was the butt of many a dressing room put down.
A friend of a friend of mine grew up with Barry in the North East, and used to go out on the town with him occasionally. Every time they’d go out, Venison would wear something hideous which would keep his pals amused. Then one night they saw him walking towards them, dressed in this conservative looking dark suit. Disappointed, they were just about to ask him what was wrong, when he turned round to reveal this huge white stallion on the back of his jacket!
He had a decent career at Liverpool, playing 158 games and even finding the net three times. He originally got his move to Anfield after writing to every club in the top division asking for a chance to play for them following Sunderland’s relegation. Dalglish gave him that chance and the player gave six years good service.
He left to join Newcastle, where he re-invented himself as a holding midfielder under Kevin Keegan’s management, and even managed to get himself a couple of England caps playing in that role. At the time Terry Venables was handing out international recognition to everybody, including the likes of Neil Ruddock and David Unsworth, but Barry’s club form did warrant the call up to be fair.
After hanging up his boots he got a job as a pundit with ITV, where he got the chance to show off his whacky suits to a national TV audience. Sadly, the mullet had long since gone, but we live in hope that it may return one glorious day.