Barry Bannan has had a solid Championship career since coming to Bloomfield Road as a 21-year-old on loan from Aston Villa. Now with Sheffield Wednesday following a successful spell with Villa and a short time with Crystal Palace – signed by Ian Holloway – Bannan has made 27 Scotland caps. He’s fondly remembered by Blackpool fans for his excellent technique and composure on the ball, despite the fact he’s only 5ft 6in, and he can be seen as ‘one that got away’ who we maybe could’ve signed permanently when we went up to the Premier League.
Speaking to The Athletic, Ian Holloway and Stephen Crainey gave their perspective on Bannan’s time at Bloomfield Road, which finished with Bannan singing ‘Don’t wanna go home’ on the promenade in front of thousands of of us.
Ian Holloway said: “He’s a wonderful young man. He’s very dedicated, chirpy and motivated and he’s a right laugh to be around. A genuinely lovely chap but he was angry at me a lot because he wanted to play. I had Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, Keith Southern who were really in the role that he wanted to play so I started using him in the wide role. I had to control him and try to slap him about in a funny sort of way.
“Not physically, but I’d joke and say, ‘Oh are you sulking again? I don’t have sulkers, they get nowhere in life’. I said, ‘When you’re good enough to take their place then I’ll put you in there. If you do what I want you to do out wide on a consistent basis then I will put you in there but in the meantime shut up, you’re on the bench!’ We had some banter about that. When he did play, he was excellent and made the others play even better because they knew how good he was.
“With him in and around things, I knew he was and still believe he’s good enough for the Premier League. He’s a very unique package with the heart and determination and skill that he has got. I have never seen anybody dominate the way he does when he’d bounce and then he’d get it. He makes everything tick.”
“He’s a little maverick, a little genius. He hit the bar from miles out for us once and I cannot believe what he did, it bounced and went in. An absolutely magnificent goal with his left foot, unbelievable goal (above). At that time I used to challenge him and Charlie to see who had the best left foot. And then I used to disappoint both boys by saying, ‘Actually, I think it’s (Peter) Whittingham at Cardiff!’”
He played 20 games for Pool, eight of which were starts, scoring once in tangerine, but Pool fans could certainly see his talent and knew he would go on to have a good career at Championship or Premier League level.
Pool hero Stephen Crainey knew of Bannan before he signed on loan, having come through the same youth system at Lenzie Youth Club in Scotland. The two would often take trips together to Parkhead to watch Celtic together during their time on the Fylde Coast, having both lived in Lytham at the time. They were clearly close off the pitch, even though he didn’t play as regularly as he’d have liked.
Crainey said: “He was a young lad on loan from Villa and I’d heard of him but with the Lenzie Youth Club link, as soon as he came in the door we just hit it off. He looked like a wee boy but once he got the ball at his feet I knew he was going to be a top player. Even in his first training session I was looking at his low centre of gravity which allowed him to turn really quick and his range of passing on his left foot was incredible.
“From Aston Villa’s point of view, they wanted him to go out and get experience at a good level. Our squad was made up of some really good players who played at a great intensity every day, we worked hard on the pitch and socialised a lot off it. Barry just came in and enhanced that with his sharpness and cleverness on the ball.
“In football you don’t get things easy and Barry would be disappointed if he didn’t get in the team but he’d be pushing himself every day to be getting back in the squad. He played a big part in what we did at Blackpool because of that. I can remember Ian Holloway coming in at the start of the season and saying, ‘Lads we’re getting promoted’ and we all laughed. We kept winning and by Christmas we believed it too.”
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