Cruelly dubbed ‘Jigsaw’ (on one occasion on by the ITV prime-time police thriller Cracker) on account of his tendency to ‘fall part in the box’, Stuart Barlow was a selfless and hard-working squad player during the lean early 1990s. A prolific goalscorer for the reserves, Barlow, who possessed an extraordinary turn of pace and knack of getting himself in one-on-one situations, struggled to apply the finishing touches in the first team. Indeed, on occasion, it seemed inevitable that a chance would go begging, touching the woodwork or somehow scraping agonisingly past the wrong side of the goalpost.
The former butcher carved a niche in the Everton squad in the early 1990s after starting out in the old A team as an amateur. It was, perhaps, his misfortune that he was an Everton player during a period when, because of the utterly threadbare nature of the squad, an unfair burden of expectation rested on his slender shoulders.
Frustrated though Evertonians often were with the striker, that never turned to ire and he remained popular for his work rate in trying circumstances. Barlow played a crucial part in the build-up to Graham Stuart’s second goal against Wimbledon on the last day of the 1994/95 season that saved Everton from relegation. Afterwards, as other players dashed for the tunnel, Barlow could be seen half-buried under masses of ecstatic fans, celebrating Everton’s survival.
Sold to Oldham Athletic for £350,000 in November 1995, he seemed to find his level in the lower leagues, and was still turning out as a semi-professional for Southport just short of his 40th birthday.