Barker Pompey future remains in balance

Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Richie Barker’s Pompey career remains in the balance following a day of Fratton Park uncertainty.

The Blues boss met chairman Iain McInnes and chief executive Mark Catlin last night with his future primarily on the agenda.

As revealed at yesterday afternoon, talks were also focused on how the squad can be strengthened before today’s emergency loan window deadline at 5pm.

Many fans believed the meeting would signal the end of the under-fire manager’s spell at the Fratton Park helm.

Yet The News understands Pompey’s seven-man board were not unanimous in a decision to dismiss the ex-Crawley manager after 108-days in the job.

As a result, Barker currently remains in charge and will continue to head the player hunt, which could see up to two new signings today.

However, further talks will take place this morning among the club’s board, leaving his position still very much in doubt.

Last night’s initial outcome has drawn much criticism from a large number of supporters who have voiced their disapproval of Barker after 20 matches in charge.

Pompey are now only two points off the relegation zone with seven matches of the season remaining.

On Saturday they travel to Newport County – the team Barker faced in his first match in charge back in December.

It remains to be seen whether the manager will still lead the team out at Rodney Parade, with the club currently tight-lipped over his future.

But last night Barker was told to continue, bringing to an end an eventful day at Fratton Park in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s 3-0 demoralising defeat at Rochdale.

Spotland represented a third-successive defeat for the Blues and took their crippling goalscoring problem to one netted in six matches.

At the final whistle the sizeable away contingent chanted ‘Barker Out’, while the manager cut a shell-shocked and weary figure during his post-match address to the media.

After remaining in the north overnight on matters connected with the Uefa pro-licence badge he is currently studying for, Barker was delayed in his return to Fratton Park.

In the meantime, discussions were held among Pompey’s board members over his future as well as measures the club can take to fight off the very real threat of relegation. However, a board meeting was not held due to some members’ unavailability and instead McInnes and Catlin met up with Barker for further talks.

It has become a regular Wednesday fixture for the trio to come together to discuss the ongoing footballing progress at the Blues, although yesterday his position was predominantly on the agenda.

The issue of replacing the ex-Rotherham striker should he be dismissed is also an intriguing one, with Andy Awford expected to step up. The Pompey Academy manager has served as caretaker on two previous occasions, one of which was as Guy Whittingham’s assistant manager at the end of last season.

Another contender to emerge has been Steve Claridge, whose presence at Spotland on Tuesday night was no coincidence – sacrificing a ticket for the Manchester derby at the last minute to attend.

Having made the seven-man shortlist for the job Barker took in December, the former Pompey playing hero has 
once again put himself forward as a solution.

Yet it is Awford who is anticipated to step up once again should the board this morning opt to end Barker’s three-and-a-half-month stay.

At present, he has won four and lost 12 of his 20 matches in charge of the Blues.

Just as crucial in the eyes of supporters, his team have mustered just 12 goals during that period – a statistic which continues to look unlikely to end during the current run.