Richie Barker: Shakers Legend in the Making?
by The Boy Holty
Richie Barker has completed his first full season in football management and you'd have to say its been a resounding success. Having overseen the climax to last season, where 90% of the credit must go to Alan Knill and his staff, he has this season had to face key players leaving, two difficult winless runs, two derby defeats against Rochdale and the typical whining Bury fans and yet he has come through it all with Bury sitting proudly in 14th place after 46 matches.
Back in August, it was all looking like it might be a stroll for Bury as Ryan Lowe was banging the goals in (he's still our second highest scorer this season) and Damien Mozika was putting in sensational performances in every game. We had drawn impressively at Huddersfield, disposed of Championship side Coventry City in the cup, beaten Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe and only a defeat against Carlisle stopped us from getting totally carried away. We were 7th at this point.
Then it all started to go wrong. Lowe signed for Sheffield Wednesday, Mozika for Knill's Scunthorpe and with injuries to Mark Hughes and Steven Schumacher the squad was decimated so Barker looked to the loan market. He did sign Shaun Harrad on a permanent deal but he and the other loan players who came in were all unfit and lacking match practice. This was the start of a terrible run which included some forgettable moments such as a 4-0 defeat at Bramall Lane, a 4-2 drubbing at home to Rochdale and defeats to Chesterfield and Hartlepool. Following a creditable 0-0 draw with MK Dons, we were in 22nd position.
Then as the loan players settled we started winning again and continued to pick up points until a 3-2 win against Yeovil in January which was to be the last win until the end of March. Following this much needed 2-0 win over Tranmere, we beat Colchester, Bournemouth and Notts County to put us incredibly in the top half of the league although a draw and a defeat in the last two games has moved us down a couple of places.
During the bad runs, Richie stuck to his game plan and the team continued to at least try to play attractive passing football. He's brought in some fantastic loan players such as Ashley Eastham, Nathan Clarke, Giles Coke, Jonathan Bond, Mike Grella, David Amoo and Latif Elford-Alliyu, all of whom have played their part. There was also Trevor Carson for a brief spell and Kudus Oyenuga (notable for being very polite, apparently).
The permanent signings have been generally good too with Mark Hughes, Patrick Cregg, Shaun Harrad and Mark Carrington all signing contracts. Harrad was the only one we paid for and he has struggled to find the net, scoring just two goals.
Then there was Cameron Belford, one of last season's outstanding players who found life in league one very difficult and couldn't have caught a cold in some of those early games. Carson came in for a spell but in the end Belford was sent out on loan to Southend where he has helped his new team make the league two playoffs.
When you consider the financial status of Bury FC this season in comparison to the other 23 clubs in the league and the attendances, there's no way we should have been finishing the season in mid table, and yet under Richie's stewardship, that is exactly what has happened. He has handled himself and his duties with great dignity and has always talked with honesty in interviews. He's very much like his predecessor in many ways, and that can't be a bad thing.
Richie Barker. You the man.