Barker delight at return of ‘lost’ striker

Ryan Taylor, centre, is congratulated for his winner against AFC Wimbledon by Ricky Holmes and Marcos Painter Picture: Joe Pepler
Ryan Taylor, centre, is congratulated for his winner against AFC Wimbledon by Ricky Holmes and Marcos Painter Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Ryan Taylor had lost his way until offered a home and a fresh start at Pompey.

Now Richie Barker believes the striker is displaying encouraging signs his career has clambered back on track.

The 25-year-old is available to return to the Blues squad tomorrow, having sat out the past three matches with a groin problem.

After returning to training yesterday, Taylor will bolster striking options which also include Michael Drennan, who is available once more following Republic of Ireland under-21 international duty.

Taylor had been sidelined since netting the winner against AFC Wimbledon – his third goal in his opening seven Pompey matches.

Since then Jake Jervis has twice been asked to serve as a lone front man, while Drennan partnered him in the last Fratton Park fixture against Accrington.

Cheltenham are the visitors tomorrow, as Barker attempts to put further distance between Pompey and the League Two relegation zone. And the man who netted twice in two-and-a-half years at Bristol City is back in the frame once again.

‘I think Ryan has been excellent since he came here,’ said Barker.

‘It’s not just his goals, of which he has scored all different types, it’s his work-rate and his ability to hold the ball up. So I think he’s done extremely well.

‘When people look and say “I’m not so sure” about a signing, that is why I do my job and other people don’t. I get paid for finding players.

‘I like people who have lost their way, who have got something to prove and are motivated to get back in – and that has happened with Ryan.

‘For a while, just through work-rate and wading in with goals, he was probably picking himself in our team – but then he got injured.

‘He’s a good kid, and ahead of missing his first game he swore blind he was going to play. He was going to climb off the treatment table and go and play – he’s desperate to play for us.

‘He works very hard and had a couple of years at Bristol City, who, technically, play the game in the right way. So Ryan can handle the ball and can handle the physical confrontation.

‘Ryan has really got the bit between his teeth and been desperate to get out there again.’

Taylor will today be assessed following yesterday’s training comeback with one eye on Cheltenham tomorrow.

Drennan and Patrick Agyemang would be other alternatives to start alongside Jervis in attack, the likelihood, however, is Drennan will get the nod as Taylor builds up his fitness.

Regardless, Barker has been delighted with his January recruit.

‘When he had his decent move to Bristol City, he probably expected it to go better than it did,’ added Barker.

‘Having said that, he was there at a time when it was probably Bristol City’s worst four or five years and they were continuing to fight against relegation.

‘He also broke his collar bone and broke his foot, but I saw somebody I thought was motivated.

‘I want people who are motivated to restart their careers here, not finish them, and I would say he ticked the boxes for me.’