Barry Fry backs Stan the man (12 Feb)
Stan Collymore will return from his current depression to show the kind of brilliance that clubs
 have gambled nearly £20million on during his career. 

 That is the belief of Barry Fry, the man who launched the Aston Villa striker's career when he was
 in charge of Southend. 

 Collymore has proved a headache for his respective managers since, Frank Clark at Nottingham
 Forest, Roy Evans at Liverpool and Brian Little and John Gregory at Aston Villa. 

 But Fry reckons the 28-year-old was as ``good as gold'' from the moment he was snapped up
 from Crystal Palace during the 1992-93 season. 

 Collymore, who has been training alone this week at Villa's Bodymoor Heath headquarters while
 still receiving treatment for stress, scored 15 goals in 30 League appearances for Southend to
 keep them in Division One. 

 ''Quite honestly, he was brilliant,'' Fry recalls. 

 ``He always played with a smile on his face, scored lots of goals, made lots of goals and the fans
 loved him. 

 ''I hope he can get back from this and back to his best. If he does, I feel sure he will help Villa win
 some trophies. 

 ''He did brilliantly at Forest and then at Liverpool for that matter. But he just seems to have gone
 off the rails at Villa.'' 

 Fry rubbishes the notion that the £20,000 Collymore earns each week at Villa has put extra
 pressure on him. 

 ``I don't think the money he earns is a pressure. With that amount of money you get security; so
 you don't have to work again. But perhaps the money stops you being hungry?'' Fry believes. 

 Fry, now manager at Peterborough, believes the change in the man he knew and the tortured soul
 he has become is a misunderstanding of the England striker. 

 ``The opinion that everybody seems to have is that Stan doesn't care but that's absolute rubbish,''
 Fry says. 

 ``That boy cares. I've seen it at Southend and hopefully we'll see it again. All the talk about him
 now, I don't really understand to be honest. 

 ``He was always just a football nut to me. He cared about the game. He was a football player that
 did all the good stuff that goes with the job. He was on just £525 a week, went out into the
 community, visited kids at schools and was loved for it. 

 ``During my time he was never a problem. For example, his sister was dying in Cannock, and so I
 used to say to him `Have Monday off, Stan'. But he never missed training. 

 ``It was not a case of me having to handle him, he handled himself and the rest of the team for that
 matter. He kept us up, virtually on his own.'' 

 Such was Fry's belief in the maverick striker he wrote extra clauses into his £2.5million transfer to
 Nottingham Forest, depending on goals scored, Forest's promotion, international caps and a 15
 per cent sell-on fee. 

 ``I had great faith in him,'' Fry recalls. ``All in all the deal made Southend more than £4 million.'' 

 Villa's financial outlay has proved less rewarding. After splashing out £7million to Liverpool before
 the start of last season, Collymore provided just six league goals in 25 appearances and has just
 one Premiership strike this time round. 

 Fry is bemused as to why he has failed at the home of his boyhood heroes. 

 ``I saw Stan in pre-season when we played at Villa and he said then that he'd never been happier
 and was looking forward to start repaying John Gregory and Doug Ellis for being so supportive to

 ``Villa was the team he always wanted to play for and I thought he would really turn it on there if

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me