Former Halifax assistant manager Richie Barker dies, aged 80

Former Halifax Town assistant-manager Richie Barker has died, aged 80.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 8:39 am

He had a long and fruitful association in football, moving into coaching and management after a distinguished playing career.

Born in Loughborough, he spent seven seasons with Burton Albion in the Southern League, racking up a club record 159 goals as a dashing inside-forward and in October 1967 became Brian Clough’s first signing at Derby County, endearing himself to the supporters by scoring in his first three games.

Barker made 11 league appearances and scored two goals in the first half of the 1968-69 season, one which saw the Rams gain promotion, but in December 1968 was sold to Notts County, where, under Jimmy Sirrrel, he helped the club to the Fourth Division title in 1970-71.

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The following season Barker moved to his last club, Peterborough United, where he brought the curtain down on his playing career, one which had seen him make 186 league appearances and score 58 goals.

He then moved into coaching, serving under Alan Durban at Shrewsbury Town and having a brief spell as manager when Durban left for Stoke City.

In November 1978, Barker joined John Barnwell at Wolves and was with the club when they lifted the League Cup in 1980, then succeeded Durban as boss at Stoke in June 1981.

Barker did well to keep the Potters in the First Division, having under his charges the likes of Adrian Heath, Lee Chapman, and an up-and-coming midfield star Paul Bracewell.

But after a poor start to his third season at Stoke, Barker left in December 1983, and fared little better when he returned to Notts County a year later, his one term in charge there ending with relegation to the Third Division in 1985.

After a successful period working in Greece and Egypt, Barker returned to England and became assistant manager to Ray Harford at Luton Town, then Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday, being with the club when they lifted the League Cup in 1991.

Barker later served under Trevor Francis at Hillsborough and experienced the heartbreak of defeat in both the finals of the League Cup and FA Cup in 1993 – both to Arsenal.

After leaving the club, Barker acted as scout for West Bromwich Albion, but returned to the dug-out with Halifax Town.

It was his former protégé Paul Bracewell who invited him to join as his assistant following his appointment as manager in October 2000, but the pair had a difficult time, although there was success of sorts when the Shaymen avoided relegation with a game to spare in their first season.

But Bracewell and Barker’s time with the club ended in acrimony after Bracewell decided to quit five games into the 2001-02 campaign, and Barker went with him, leaving the game to enjoy retirement in his hometown of Market Drayton, Shrophire.