Few surprises but Barker successes shone through

Richie Barker

Richie Barker

Pompey 2 Cambridge United 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

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When a teary-eyed Steve Cotterill drove away from Pompey’s former Eastleigh training ground in October 2011, so began the start of 27 days of seeking his managerial replacement.

A hunt treated with contemptuous silence from the David Lampitt and CSI regime, the absence of willingness to explain the workings of the long process to supporters was startling.

Then Ladbrokes contacted The News after discovering unusual betting patterns on somebody called Michael Appleton.

It prompted a few bemused Google searches. Yet this relative unknown emerged as the favourite to be Blues boss – barely days before his unveiling.

Contrast indeed to little more than two years later when Richie Barker headed both the bookies’ odds and general expectations – almost from the very start and certainly at the finish.

It was The News who 11 days ago were the first to reveal the 38-year-old was a highly strong and very realistic candidate for the position.

He and chief executive Mark Catlin had worked successfully together at Bury, a comfortable link to establish.

Meanwhile, Catlin admitted he was one of those behind appointing him at Gigg Lane.

Also, Hove-based Barker was known to be eager to join a bigger club than Crawley – certainly no secret, even if he did sign a fresh two-year deal in the summer.

Then came his sudden exit from the Reds amid arguments over a reduced January budget.

That disposed of the notion of compensation, much to the attraction of this south coast club who cannot pay any.

‘Jobs for the boys’ came the cries from some fans hardly enamoured over the prospect of a Crawley manager taking over a faltering side.

Then again, Martin Allen never applied, neither did Avram Grant, neither did Alan Curbishley, neither did a host of fantastic names bandied around.

Neil Warnock politely informed Pompey he was not interested within days of Whittingham’s departure, despite the escalating myth that he said on radio he would do it for nothing.

He insisted the comments were actually made four years earlier during an interview following a Fratton Park match.

Still, Chris Wilder did apply and was granted permission. Justin Edinburgh was not by Newport County, while Exeter stood aside to allow Paul Tisdale a chance.

Pompey were seeking managers with experience at the lower levels of the Football League and largely having worked on minor budgets.

Although, admittedly, Wilder does have one of the highest in League Two at present, reflected by Oxford’s position.

Candidate win ratios were never going to be crucial. Instead, success was to be viewed as entirely relative, case-by-case.

Barker won six of his first eight matches in charge of the Shakers to lead them into League One – then he kept them there in mid-table, on arguably the lowest budget in the division.

Similarly, with Crawley slashing the wage bill following the boom years under Steve Evans, he stabilised them in League One – also on a severely-reduced budget.

Clearly, Catlin is aware of Barker’s ability – but not being on the board deprived him the vote on any boss appointment. Instead, seven others decided.

As for the ‘jobs for the boys’ jibe, surely it could also have been rolled out if somebody from within was made manager.

Regardless, the process to find the next manager was dealt with openness and transparency barely seen at Pompey in recent times, with Catlin and chairman Iain McInnes regularly updating fans through the media.

Although, understandably, both long refused to discuss names.

So Barker is it is, to be joined by Steve Coppell. The worst-kept secret?

Definitely, there are no surprises over the outcome of a manager hunt on this occasion.

Now it’s time to give Richie Barker a chance.

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