Barry Hayles began his senior football career at Stevenage and has since played for teams including Fulham, Leicester, and Sheffield United. He has been in the game for approximately 30 years.
No matter if they play in the English Premier League or the 11th division, football players’ careers can occasionally be unpredictable.
Although Barry Hayles started his professional career at the beginning of the 1993–94 season, or nearly 30 years ago, the forward has no plans to end just yet. He started off playing for non-league Stevenage and progressed up the leagues to shine for Fulham in the Premier League before also playing for Leicester and Sheffield United.
Hayles, who turned 50 in May, has played for 14 different clubs during his career, scoring more than 300 goals and reaching double digits at the highest level. The former Jamaican forward has had a spectacular journey, one that really started at Stevenage as a right-back.
Hayles stated in a conversation with the Daily Star: “The manager told me that he needed a striker when I arrived at Stevenage as a right-back. In that game, I only managed to score once. I believed playing defense was my greatest position, and I was content there, but it turns out it wasn’t. I was better in the back, according to some of my former teammates, but there you have it.”
Hayles secured a transfer to Bristol Rovers after excelling at League Two club Stevenage. There, he continued to thrive, leading the fourth-division scoring charts with an astonishing 23 goals. When Hayles joined Fulham in a transaction worth almost £2 million in 1998, his career’s upward trajectory continued.
During his time with the west Londoners, Hayles made almost 200 appearances, scoring 44 league goals and assisting them in two promotions from the third tier to the Premier League. Hayles scored 13 goals in the top tier after guiding them to the promised land, earning him the reputation of being a cult hero at Craven Cottage.
Although it could have gone quite differently, Hayles has happy recollections of his trip from Bristol Rovers to Fulham, where he also won the UEFA Intertoto Cup. The striker had received the similar offer from Bristol City, a nearby competitor, but he refused to transfer across the town.
Lambeth native Hayles continued, “Bristol City had made a £2 million offer that was accepted by the club, but I turned it down. I was unable to go there. I gambled and stayed, but when Fulham arrived, it was the ideal time to return to London.
“[Then-owner Mohamed] Al Fayed had come in and he brought players from higher leagues to Fulham and he completely changed the ethos of the club. At the same time there was youngsters like Sean Davis coming through, so it was a great mix.
“[Kevin] Keegan signed me, so that was a buzz. When I came in, he made me feel like I was one of the best players in the world and it all clicked from there. The players we had as well as a great social group, it all blended on and off the pitch. It was a perfect fit.”
During his time at Fulham, Hayles played with Louis Saha, who would eventually play for Manchester United. The two formed a powerful tandem. The Whites won 30 of their 46 league games to earn promotion to the Premier League. Saha scored 27 goals, Hayles scored 18, and Luis Boa Morte scored 18.
Added Hayles “Saha was without a doubt the best player I ever played with. It was all his. I used to advise him to calm down during training so the guys would feel more confident. He was that talented.”
Due to Hayles’ little playing time in the 2003–04 season, he transferred to Sheffield United of the Championship.
He went on: “After leaving Cheltenham, I retired, and shortly after, I received a call. I was asked if I wanted to play for Truro City by an old teammate of mine. I met the chairman, who offered me to join the team after I scored 20 goals the next season.”
The former Jamaican striker made the decision to keep playing non-league football for teams like St. Albans City and Chesham United. He has continued for the past 12 years. Windsor, who compete in the Combined Counties League Premier Division North, announced in the summer that Hayles would be joining the team once more.
Even though his role at Windsor is predominantly a teaching one, Hayles, who also plays for England’s over-50s, has no intention of ending his playing career. This season, he has participated nine times for the Step 6 team and scored one goal.