Ernest Barry became only the third goalkeeper to win the MFA Footballer of the Year award in 2000.
It is no secret that outfield players are often preferred to goalkeepers when selecting candidates for this accolade.
It has to be a really outstanding season for a goalkeeper to claim this coveted honour.
Season 1999-2000 was certainly a memorable one for Barry.
His performances for club and country were of the highest standard. The towering goalkeeper not only led Sliema Wanderers to victories in the FA Trophy, Euro Cup, and Super Cup, but also turned in some exceptional performances for the national team.
The son of Fred Barry, himself a famous footballer with Floriana FC, Vittoriosa Stars, and Hibernians, Ernest was born on July 1, 1967.
Tall and strong, he had the right stature for an international goalkeeper.
Yet his career was slow to progress because, many times, he had to compete with other first-class goalkeepers. He started with Melita FC as an amateur in 1981.
In those days, the Amateurs had an experienced goalkeeper in Von Brockdorff.
They also had an excellent reserve goalkeeper in David Cluett who, at the time, was at the start of his long and successful career.
In 1984-85, Von Brockdorff retired from football and Cluett took over as Melita’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Barry was promoted as Cluett’s deputy but after four seasons with the Amateurs, he had yet to make his first-team debut.
Therefore, he decided to move on, joining Naxxar Lions in the Third Division in 1985.
It was a move which paid instant dividends.
In his first season with the Lions, Barry won the Third Division league and cup double. During the next two seasons, he helped the Lions to win the Second and First Division championships.
It seemed that Barry’s career was now on a sound footing but, after taking the club from the Third Division to the Premier League, he suffered an unexpected setback.
Naxxar signed experienced campaigner Alan Zammit from Sliema Wanderers and the young Barry was left to play second fiddle.
That season, he played only three times for the first team.
It was therefore no surprise when Barry left Naxxar to join Sliema Wanderers.
Barry stayed with the Wanderers for four seasons in which he, more or less, established himself as the club’s first choice goalkeeper.
In 1993-94, however, he was back on the move, this time to Mellieħa FC in the First Division and the next season with St George’s FC in the Premier League.
These moves did him a world of good.
His growing reputation as a reliable goalkeeper earned him the respect of many people in local football, including the Malta selectors who gave him an extended run of 23 matches in the national team colours.
Rejoining Sliema Wanderers, he stayed with the Blues for six eventful seasons. This was the best spell of his career, winning the league championship in 1995-96 and the FA Trophy in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. By now he was 34, an age when most footballers would consider retiring.
Barry, however, felt that he still had a lot to offer and when his contract with the Wanderers expired, he joined Valletta on a two-year contract.
After his spell with Valletta, he joined Balzan Youths in the Premier Division.
Barry is the epitome of a player with a never-say-die spirit.
He is an excellent role model for anyone aspiring to make the grade in football.
Throughout his career, Barry always had to compete with other first-class goalkeepers, both at club and international level.
Sometimes, Lady Luck turned its back on him but this only served to intensify his motivation.
Despite all these difficulties, he succeeded in reaching the very top of Maltese football.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us