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Our most senior citizen... Game On SKY BLUES.

Byline: Jim Brown

SOME time ago I wrote a short piece about Jack Barnes who I believed was the oldest surviving former Coventry City player.

My research has enabled me to confirm not only that he is the oldest ex-City man but, at 98 years old, is the oldest surviving Football lLeague player.

Born on April 28, 1908, he will be 99 next month, and is in a nursing home at Coleshill.

Regrettably Jack's hearing is poor and he is frail but when prompted he can remember some of his sporting achievements.This week I spoke to his daughter Janet Sellicks who was able to fill in some of the gaps in Jack's life.

Jack was born and spent most of his life in Atherstone. At the age of 12 he was forced to leave school to help provide for his younger siblings. He went down the local coalmines and also managed to do a job in a baker's in the evening.

Jack had sporting talent and as a teenager was spotted by Coventry City playing for Atherstone Town.

In February 1928 Jack, a nippy left winger, was given his first team chance following a disastrous 7-0 defeat at Walsall and played eight games for the club that season. It was a miserable season for the club and the smallest league crowd in the club's history, only 2,059, watched a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on a Monday afternoon.

Jack played eight successive games - only one of which was a victory, as the Bantams finished 20th out of 22 teams in the Third Division South.

The following season Jack was a regular for the reserves but never did enough to gain a first-team recall and in the summer of 1929 he joined Walsall. He was a regular for the Saddlers for two seasons making 68 appearances and scoring 18 goals.

Next stop was Watford where he clocked up another 75 games and 11 goals in two seasons. 1933 saw him go west with Exeter City but his appearances were more sporadic, 18 league games yielded one goal although he helped the Grecians win the Division Three South Cup including a replay win over Coventry and he scored in both games.

He obviously relished playing against his first club and scored against the Bantams for Walsall, Watford (goals at home and away) and Exeter. His final league club was York City in 1934 and he played 15 games (1 goal) before a foot injury ended his professional career. He returned to Atherstone and whilst playing for the local team he improved his already prolific golf skills to such an extent that in 1938 he was on the verge of a professional career.

A young child and a wife who didn't fancy the support role next to a golfer put paid to his hopes of another sporting career. His last football was played for local team Wilstaff Sports.

During the war Jack worked in a munitions factory in Coventry and after the hostilities tried numerous occupations including painter/decorator, plumber, working in a tannery, ending up in the hosiery trade were he had a happy time with Freers in Atherstone.

Janet has a wonderful collection of scrapbooks and memorabilia from Jack's life including an international cap won in 1927, when he was on City's books.

I think it is a cap awarded to players who appeared for the Birmingham County FA in annual games against a Scottish Junior side in that era. He was also an accomplished boxer, cricketer and swimmer and kept greyhounds, a true sporting Corinthian.

I HAVE been asked by Matt Kite of the committee of the Coventry Charity Cup to research the history of this famous competition. If anybody has any information such as the first time it was contested, the first winners, etc. please drop me an email or a line at the Telegraph.

If I can help settle an argument, relive a memory or help with tracing details of a friend or family member who played for Coventry City, e-mail me the details at jimrbrown@tiscali.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

VETERAN...Jack Barnes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 10, 2007
Words:688
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