Barker: Midfielder’s future in the balance

Toumani Diagouraga Picture: Joe Pepler
Toumani Diagouraga Picture: Joe Pepler
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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RICHIE BARKER feels Toumani Diagouraga’s Pompey future could go either way as his loan spell comes to an end.

But the Blues boss revealed the on-loan midfielder wants to stay at Fratton Park as his side go to Fleetwood tomorrow.

The trip to Highbury marks the last game of an impressive month for the 26-year-old, since his arrival from Brentford.

Bees boss Mark Warburton had indicated he wanted Diagouraga to return to Griffin Park at the end of that spell.

Barker hasn’t given up hope of him remaining, though, and believes it’s a ‘coin toss’ whether he stays or goes.

‘My hopes are he will stay,’ said Barker.

‘I would say it’s on the toss of a coin at the moment.

‘He’s expressed an interest to stay and Mark Warburton has been fantastic with us.

‘But I’m well aware that, until things are signed, anything can happen.

‘I think we may have been a slight victim of our success in the (televised) Chesterfield game, in that we might have put him on a few people’s radars.

‘Maybe getting man of the match on Tuesday (against Burton Albion) didn’t help either.

‘I’d be surprised if they (other teams) weren’t interested.

‘If you were looking for that type of player, he’s not bad, is he? We’ll probably find out more after Saturday.’

Diagouraga has quickly been made to feel wanted in his five Pompey starts.

That’s after a period on the sidelines at his parent club – with his last league start there arriving in November.

Barker said: ‘Toumani’s enjoyed himself and he’s a fantastic kid who wants to play football.

‘He has said he’s enjoying his time playing. He’s enjoying his time here and has brought into what we are trying to do.

‘Everyone has taken to him – the players, staff and fans.

‘It’s nice to be popular after being a bit-part player for a while.

‘I’m sure he’s enjoying people thinking something of him.’

Barker expressed some reservations about the potential gap Diagouraga will leave in his side if his stay is not renewed.

But he is also excited about his room for improvement if he remains.

‘I think he’s improved in every game and a lot of that was down to not being match fit when he came,’ added Barker.

‘He’s hasn’t played a great deal and he was always going to take a while.

‘But if he keeps going and improving, and we manage to keep him, hopefully we’ll see more of him.

‘He’s a good athlete but there’s no substitute for playing on a regular basis in terms of match fitness.

‘It’s not just about the aerobic fitness, it’s about the sharpness and decision making, too. That’s the way he plays.

‘It’s about match sharpness and recognition of positions, too.

‘He doesn’t hang about, and due to the size and ranginess of him, he can win tackles you don’t think he’s going to win.

‘He can play as well. When he breaks things up he can accelerate and get you higher up the pitch quickly.

‘He’s more than just some big clumsy player who runs around braking things up. If he goes he’s going to leave a hole – a big one.’