The Everton career of Welsh international midfielder Barry Horne can be divided into two roughly equal sections. The first two years of his four-year spell at Everton were a non-event, and with the team struggling, Horne’s form was indifferent. Then came a flash of genius, delivered at a crucial juncture, and Horne was transformed, gaining immediate cult hero status among fans.
A late starter by professional standards, Horne’s footballing career began in the mid-1980s with Wrexham, who he joined on completing a chemistry degree at Liverpool University. He signed for Portsmouth in 1987 and after 70 games moved along the south coast to join Southampton in 1989. A Welsh international, following the international retirement of Kevin Ratcliffe, Horne became national captain.
At the start of the 1992/93 season he moved back north to join Everton, his boyhood team, in a £500,000 deal. Expectations of a player already past his thirtieth birthday were, perhaps, unfairly high after Howard Kendall’s promise that Everton would be signing a midfielder ‘in the Peter Reid mould’ – a tough billing for any player to live up to. Although he scored on his debut, Horne struggled in these early days and at one point found himself dropped in favour of the untried Billy Kenny.
Without question, the turning point in Barry Horne’s Goodison career came on the final day of the 1993/94 season, when Everton faced Wimbledon needing a win to avoid relegation. 2-1 down time and with time running out, in the sixty-seventh minute the midfielder’s moment arrived: a poor header by Vinnie Jones was picked up by Horne on the outside of the centre circle; beating his man, he checked and as the ball bobbled up let fly with a 30 yard half-volleyed shot which crashed into the top left hand corner of the Wimbledon net. Goodison went crazy, having witnessed one of its great goals. Everton went on to win 3-2, saving themselves, and Horne’s Everton career was transformed.
When Joe Royle was appointed manager the following November, with Everton once more propping up the Premier League, he handed Horne and the other senior professionals at the club – Dave Watson, Paul Rideout and Neville Southall – the responsibility of saving Everton from what seemed like the near-certainty of relegation. All four responded magnificently, providing the backbone to a team which lost just six more games that season and won the FA Cup – Horne’s first trophy at the age of 33.
During the 1995/96 season, as a Welshman Horne found himself victim of UEFA’s ‘three foreigners’ rule, then suspension. Although he occasionally deputised as captain in the absence of Dave Watson, Royle increasingly favoured Tony Grant and John Ebbrell as his central midfield pairing. At the season’s end Horne, now aged 34, was allowed to join Birmingham City. It was a move Royle soon came to regret and in March 1997 the Everton manager tried to bring him back to Goodison as player-coach. When the Everton board refused to sanction the move, Royle resigned and Horne stayed at Birmingham. He left the Midlands for Huddersfield Town the following summer, later having spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Kidderminster Harriers and Walsall.
A thoughtful, intelligent man, on retiring from football he returned to the career path he had abandoned for football two decades earlier, becoming a chemistry teacher in a Chester school, a position he currently combines with extensive local media work.