Death Of Former Wolves Assistant Announced
Richie Barker, half of the managerial double act from when Wolves last won the League Cup, has passed away.
The former Molineux assistant had been in poor health for a couple of years and his death was announced on Twitter today by his long-time friend Alan Durban.
Richie turned 80 last November and, as well as linking up with John Barnwell for a fulfilling period in Wolves’ history, managed Shrewsbury, Stoke and Notts County.
He had been in charge at the Gay Meadow for only nine months when tempted across the patch after a call from Wolves chairman Harry Marshall.
The club lost FA Cup semi-finals against Arsenal and Tottenham with the duo in charge but pulled off a memorable Wembley triumph over Nottingham Forest in between.
Seen as underdogs against Brian Clough’s serial winners, they hatched a tactical plan for which Barker was given much of the credit and prevailed in a tight game that did not reach the heights of the 1974 triumph over Manchester City.
“I loved my time at Wolves, a real club as I call them, and was so grateful to have the chance to work there,” Barker told us in a long interview eight years ago.
“I was managing Shrewsbury in succession to Alan Durban when Wolves asked for permission to speak to me. To be honest, I always preferred coaching to managing and thought I was better at it. I had no interest in doing deals and wanted to be on the training ground with the players.”
Loughborough-born Barker had played up front for Clough’s Derby in the late 1960s after a lengthy and prolific stint at Burton Albion but it was at nearby Notts County that he first befriended Forest-based Barnwell.
They were reunited at Peterborough a few years later and clicked at Molineux, where their British record signing of Andy Gray and high-profile capture of Emlyn Hughes from Liverpool was followed by a sixth-place top-flight finish.
Barker was the more successful of the two from then on and had two and a half First Division years as Stoke boss after being recommended for the post by his predecessor Durban – a Derby team-mate of his and by now manager of Sunderland.
Among those he worked with at the Victoria Ground were Derek Parkin and George Berry but the side’s fortunes plummeted after a spirited challenge for a European place in 1983 when he returned from a coaching seminar at Lilleshall and implemented a longer-ball game the following season that marginalised talented midfielders like Sammy McIlroy, Paul Bracewell, Mark Chamberlain and Mickey Thomas.
Convinced that all coaches should broaden their experience with at least one overseas assignment, Barker followed a management spell at Notts County by taking charge of Greek side Ethnikos Piraeus and then leading Egyptian giants Al-Zamalek to glory in the African Champions Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the European Cup; adventures he fully savoured.
He later worked with Ray Harford at Luton and Ron Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday, becoming a frequent cup final visitor to Wembley, and had a scouting stint at Albion and a link-up at Halifax with Paul Bracewell before retiring.
We have only fond memories of the ever-cheerful Richie, having met up with him again in 2012 at Shrewsbury at a money-raising charity dinner organised by Graham Hawkins.
The last time we saw him was when he attended a John Motson night in Market Drayton, the Shropshire town in which he was then living – and contentedly playing lots of golf.