A fascinating insight into the character of Richie Barker was movingly provided at his funeral this morning.
News of the death of the 80-year-old former Wolves assistant manager travelled widely across the football world when announced three weeks ago.
And his daughter Louise talked at Telford Crematorium today of a fiercely competitive and committed individual, one totally in love with the game.
In a eulogy that drew applause at the end, we were reminded that Richie worked as an architectural draughtsman before making it big in sport, initially as a record-breaking goalscorer with Burton Albion.
Born in Loughborough, he then served Derby and made enduring friendships reflected in the fact that two former Rams players, Alan Durban and Wolverhampton-born Roger Davies, were among the mourners.
A fitting and at times tearful address taught us that……”football was not just a hobby or even a job. It was his number one passion and he never, ever dreaded going into work…..unless he was expecting the sack that day. He reckoned that if you don’t like football, there’s something wrong with you!
“Reading the comments about him since he died and seeing words like ‘hero’ and ‘legend’ has been very humbling.
“I know how loud his voice could be on the touchline and he could be brutally honest, but always in a kind way. To call him a ‘straight talker’ is probably a polite way of putting it.
“He hated losing at golf as much as he hated losing at football and it was no good me telling him I had finished second in a race when I was a young girl. He was only interested if I had won and broken a school record!”
The nuggets of information continued….he was a regular church-goer, he went to his beloved golf club in Market Drayton for lunch almost every day even in his memory-loss years. Oh, and he was apparently ‘a massive flirt’ as well as very private and generous.
Louise is a Sheffield Wednesday fan due to growing up while her dad was coaching there under Ron Atkinson, who was also present today, and then Trevor Francis.
Swords had been crossed in Wolves-Albion derbies in the John Barnwell era and Atkinson recalled: “Just before we played them at Molineux for the first time after their arrival, Gary Newbon got us all together for a night at Lorenzo’s Restaurant in Birmingham.
“I thought Richie was very dour at first but saw him again at a managers’ do in London and we got on very well. I realised he had a very different side to his character.
“I called him from Wednesday to say I needed an assistant because Lou Macari was taking a manager’s job somewhere. Richie was at Luton with Ray Harford and I asked whether he knew anyone who would be interested? I was surprised when he said: ‘Yes, me.’
“They were just about to play in the League Cup final but he decided to join me immediately and we reached one or two finals of our own.”
There were some familiar Molineux match-day features about today’s service, with the playing of ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ as entrance music and ‘Simply The Best’ on departure.
Louise is currently on maternity leave and had a promise for Richie’s grandkids. “I will continue to talk to them about him and let them know what an amazing man he was,” she added.