Former Mufulira Wanderers player, at 71, Stan Casey is still going strong

Mufulira Wanderers
Mufulira Wanderers

HE’S talked tactics with some of Barrow AFC’s best, massaged players’ aching limbs after a punishing game, rubbed shoulders with international stars in East Africa and watched in awe at some of the amazing talent this community has produced.

At the age of 71, Stan Casey is still going strong and his passion for football remains the same as it did when he was a youngster growing up in Barrow – unquenchable.

He is still in demand and can be seen regularly giving touchline advice at West Lancs Premier Division side Vickerstown.

His fascinating career has seen him serve as a Bluebirds assistant manager, boss at Kendal Town and playing in defence for Mufulira Wanderers, a copper belt town in the province of Zambia.

He almost turned out for Sydney Prague in the New South Wales Federation League, but a shoulder injury prevented him from doing so.

Casey, the oldest of four siblings, was born in Sloop Street, Barrow Island, grew up on Walney, and first laced his boots for Walney juniors before turning out for Walney County Secondary school.

He later progressed to a team called Painters and then moved on to the British Legion and Swarthmoor Social Club in the then North Western League. But Casey, who worked in the shipyard as a rigger/sail maker, was keen to explore different avenues in the sport, and later became a masseur and a coach.

It was after returning from Zambia, where he played alongside Mufulira legend and Zambian skipper Dickson Makwaza, that Casey first got involved with Barrow AFC after being invited to the club by the late Max Rattray and Bill McCullough, and in 1975 he worked as a sports therapist and physio for manager Brian Arrowsmith.

He later became assistant manager to Mick Taylor at Holker Street, a position he held from 1979-83. In fact Casey was to have a say at AFC on a further two occasions, joining Maurice Whittle and then former Liverpool star David Johnston in the dug-out.

Casey took over at Kendal Town, then known as Netherfield, in 1989 with Barrow players like Jamie Frankland, Dave Smith, Steve McCullough, and Dave Conlin joining him at the Lake District club.

Never one to waste a Saturday, Casey has also held positions at Holker Old Boys, Barrow Wanderers, Dalton, and now with Vickerstown.

Casey, who has put his globe-trotting days well behind him now, said: “I started studying coaching in my early 20s, and I studied a lot with Ron Staniforth, who was manager of Barrow.

“I had a very good relationship with him and he used to take me on training courses. He was one of the first staff coaches in England, his strength was his coaching.

“I got my early badge in my mid-20s with the old FA system. We took the test at the old Thorncliffe School, Holker Old Boys used to play there. From there I just carried on and got involved with teams.”

After completing a Northern Institute of Massage course on sport injuries and manipulative therapy Casey’s itchy feet saw him and his family head to Zambia where he went to work in the mines in Mulfulira.

“I played for Mufulira Wanderers, they were in the National Zambian League which covered copper belt, Lousaka all the way up to the borders,” he said.

“That was my most enjoyable time because three or four played for the national Zambian side and our captain was also captain of the national side, Dickson Makwaza.

“They were happy days and I got myself heavily into coaching then, which held me in good stead.”

Two years later he was back in Barrow and had returned to the shipyard, but football was never far behind.

Casey has seen many fine exponents of the game and his heroes are Italian defender Paulo Maldini and England midfielder Paul Gascoigne.

But on a local level he recalls watching Barrow AFC’s 1990 FA Trophy hero Neil Doherty as a youngster.

“When he was 13, he played for British Cellophane under-16s,” said Casey of the winger, who joined Watford as a junior and went on to play for Birmingham City.

“I watched him and he stood out like a sore thumb, he was absolutely marvellous. His ball control was brilliant and the coaching school he has now is a credit.”

During his days at Holker Street Casey rated defenders Mick Richmond, Barry Knowles and centre-half Steve Brooks. But when he talks of of Bluebirds legend Colin Cowperthwaite, he says: “I have come off the game and have seen Colin Cowperthwaite’s calves black and blue, he could hardly walk. They used to kick lumps out of him.

“A lot don’t see what goes on in the games, a lot of the tackles and all that.

He used to take a lot of stick but he was so strong and he could read a game absolutely brilliantly. He had a beautiful left peg.”

Casey has many views of the beautiful game and will continue to make himself available at Vickerstown, where he works with first-team boss Dave Round and reserve-team player manager Steve Brennan.

Casey and his wife Joyce, 69, live at at West Shore Park and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in December.

The father of three, grandfather and great-grandfather added: “I am very passionate about football, I still love Barrow AFC and I always will do. And Kendal Town have still kept in touch.

“When I am ready to walk away I will do, but at the moment I am enjoying it.”