Written by Liam of BonusBetting.org.uk, a lifelong fan of Barnsley F.C.
When Barnsley supporters first heard the news that Hungarian duo Istvan Ferecnzi and Peter Rajczi were to join the club in January 2007, it would be fair to say that there wasn’t much optimism circling the club. The manager at the time, Simon Davey, wasn’t exactly a favourite amongst the crowd and his decision to bring in two unproven players to the English Championship reeked of desperation for many. There were some who tolerated the moves, with some even being quite hopeful on the signing of Rajczi as he at least seemed to possess a relatively decent scoring record. However, few had time for Ferenczi, who seemed to arrive as something of a journeyman with a habit of falling out with clubs.
One of my first memories of Ferenczi actually came as I drove home from work one day. Listening to the local radio station, the presenter was trying his upmost to interview the player but to say he was struggling was an understatement. His English wasn’t just broken, it was practically none existent and the only thing anyone got out of the interview was what he liked to be called – Stan. Funnily enough, this is what Barnsley fans called him throughout his stay, and to this day now.
After both players struggled in their opening couple of games, there was definitely a sense of “I told you so” around Oakwell. However, out of the blue, the two clicked. Firstly, Ferenczi helped the Tykes to a 3-2 win over bogey-team Southampton with a bullet header, but undoubtedly his most memorable contribution arose just a game later against Hull. In fact, this was one of the only games where both players proved deadly as a combined strike force. With Hull being one of the major relegation rivals, it was absolutely crucial to get a result and both men played a huge part as Barnsley romped to a 3-0 victory. Ferenczi scored two goals of the highest order before then playing a superb pass for Rajczi to slot home in the end. With relegation appearing to be all but a foregone conclusion prior to this point, it was the contribution of both players that led many supporters to at least believe that survival was a possibility. Moreover, the duo continued to impress as Rajczi this time turned provider against Stoke live in front of the cameras, with Ferenczi scoring the only goal of the game as the club beat the challenging threat of the Potters.
Unfortunately, Rajczi wasn’t to continue his promising form and he soon started to drop to the bench. However, Ferenczi had become a firm fans favourite and after bagging a total of six goals in the final months of the season, many credited “Stan” as the man who saved Barnsley from relegation. It wasn’t just his goals, but he brought an incredible work ethic that seemed to rub off on every member of the team. For the first time in a long while we started to defend from the front and as any Barnsley fan will tell you – any player who gives his all will always be appreciated by supporters.
After Rajczi was allowed to leave at the end of the 2006/07 season, a lot of people wondered how Stan would cope in English football without his right hand man. However, he proved in the opening stages of the new season that he certainly hadn’t lost anything, scoring a couple of goals in the opening weeks. Unfortunately, after incurring an ankle injury, he never really returned to full fitness and often cut a frustrated figure. In comparison to the previous campaign he had seemed to lose his physical edge and was often penalised by referees for constant barging.
Nevertheless, despite the above, Ferenczi still had an important part to play. He proved a real thorn in the side of both Liverpool and Chelsea as Barnsley recorded memorable FA Cup wins over the Premiership giants and supporters knew they could always rely on him to chip in with the odd goal.
However, it was clear that Stan’s time at Oakwell was coming to an end. In interviews (he had grasped decent English by this point), he made no secret of the fact that he loved the club and the bond he had with fans. But Simon Davey obviously thought the big man had done his job and decided to place him on the transfer list at the end of the 2007/08 season. As you would expect, there was a long list of suitors and many supporters were happy that he got a chance to join a decent outfit in the form of Ferencváros. In fact, they were even happier to see that the striker was making a huge impact in Hungary and many even monitored his progress.
Perhaps the most pleasing issue on Istvan’s legacy was his clear bond with supporters. Even after he left he wrote on supporter message boards and was always very complimentary of everyone associated with Barnsley whenever he was asked in interviews. Moreover, after Ferencváros played against us in a pre-season friendly in 2009, the reception that Ferenczi received was simply incredible and highlighted his legendary status at Oakwell.
All in all, whenever one mentions Hungary to any Barnsley supporter, they will always reply with Istvan Ferenczi. Even though he was only with the club for a couple of years, the impact he made with supporters was one of the biggest ever seen and there’s no doubt he’ll be welcome back in Barnsley at any point during his life.
This was a guest post. If you’re interested in writing for HungarianFootball.com, don’t hesitate to contact Tomasz Mortimer at HungarianFootball@live.co.uk or Tomasz@HungarianFootball.com