Are Barnsley the greatest ever national team?

Drennan Barnsley’s back to back Angling Trust Division 1 National wins on the Trent in 2018 and following up with another triumph a few days ago on the Trust owned Aire & Calder and New Junction canals, although in some ways no great surprise to the general angling public, is undoubtedly an outstanding achievement. Where does it rank in the all-time national achievements?

Barnsley's winning team in 2019 Barnsley's winning team in 2019

Likely Lad to the rescue

It's fortuitous that after 20 years of painstaking research, we now have John Essex history of the National Angling Championships as a reference point. Stretching back to the inaugural event back in 1906, all the winning teams and individuals are listed for every match. Many of these matches are analysed in significant detail. I am sure John regrets that two volumes could not have been published but then we might have had to wait a little while longer for the publication date.

Back to back to division winners

It turns out that no team has ever managed to win the top division (the only division between 1906 and 1971) three times in a row. Indeed, only six teams have managed back to back wins in the top division. These teams are:

  • Leeds & DASA 1909 and 1910
  • Lincoln DAA 1935 and 1936
  • Leeds & DASA 1948 and 1949
  • Birmingham Anglers Association 1975 and 1976
  • Dorking 2011 and 2012
  • Barnsley 2018 and 2019

Victory number eight

The recent victory is the eighth since the inaugural victory of the 1979 team on the Ouse and Cam, a tough match with large numbers of dry nets as Jim Baxter recalls here. As for Jim, he might yet line up in the 2019 Division 2 event after a long national absence, for at present he listed as a reserve for one of the northern teams, so you never know.

Remarkably, this is Barnsley’s third win in four nationals, something that has never been achieved in the top flight before. The 2019 match produced some amazing canal catches. Six teams averaged over 5 kgs per angler with only one team averaging less than 2 kgs per team member and nobody who fished blanked. If the match had been decided on weight, Hull DAA would have won, with Scunthorpe runners up and Doncaster third. You can find more details of those Barnsley victories and the venues where they triumphed in John Essex book

Dave Vincent in London Dave Vincent in London

Dave Vincent. Trevs, star, England international and the authors pick as the firth best canal angler of all time.

The rise of Trevs

One team that did win three nationals on the bounce was the great Trevs AS side, a London based team. For much of national history, southern teams were among the also-rans but ABC with their win in 1985 and Trevs ended that jinx. Great names who lined up in that team include the Vincent Brothers, Mick and Dave, Derek Young, Peter Vasey, Mark Lichtenburg, Graham Dack and Dean Field. Joining the NFA and entering the national for the first time in 1985, they took the Division 5 title on the Trent and Division 4 on the Witham, followed by Division 3 in 1987 on the Severn. It was the Stainforth team who prevented them adding the fourth title when Trevs finished runners up to them on a rising Severn in 1988.

My brother and I had the privilege of watching Derek young giving a master display of bleak fishing, watching his crinkled yellow line rather than the movement of the float. Two years later, Trevs took the Division One crown on the Witham. This run of form certainly makes them another contender for the greatest national team ever. What a shame they eventually disbanded.

Alan Scotthorne AT Div 1 Nat Champs 2017

Five times world champion Alan Scotthorne in deep concentration on the Shroppie.

The missing piece of the Barnsley jigsaw

None of Barnsley’s eight national victories have yet come on a narrow canal. With the 2020 event scheduled for the Grand Union Canal from Milton Keynes north towards Stoke Bruerne, this is something that they will surely be looking to put right. There will be up to 49 other teams determined to go down in national history as the team who stopped Barnsley in their tracks.

Ten of these teams will have been promoted from the upcoming Division 2 Shropshire Union National and quite a few of the new boys will quietly fancy their chances of pushing Barnsley all the way. Personally, having just read about the exploits of other great teams such as Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds, Boston, the Sheffield teams and Lincoln to name but a few, I am a trifle reluctant to state definitively that Barnsley are already the greatest ever national team.

It’s certainly a little easier to win nationals with a maximum of only 50 teams of ten taking part compared to events with 100 or more teams of 12 anglers lining up. However, if they do win again in 2020, thus proving their mastery on narrow canals in the process, then that would certainly clinch it for me. My gut feeling is that they will pull it off this time around. What do you think?

Last date edited: 29 August 2019

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The fisheries & angling team

The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.

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