Amicable break-up after Richie Barker and Pompey ‘didn’t add up’

Former Pompey boss Richie Barker Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey boss Richie Barker Picture: Joe Pepler

The bold way forward had been plotted over six hours and a meal at a Goodwood venue – the solution centring on Richie Barker remaining as manager.

The bold way forward had been plotted over six hours and a meal at a Goodwood venue – the solution centring on Richie Barker remaining as manager.

Come the morning after, his Pompey exit was mutually agreed in the most amicable of circumstances.

A remarkable swing over a 10-hour period. But, upon reflection, both parties yesterday felt it appropriate to end their 109-day and increasingly-fraught association.

Club chairman Iain McInnes insists Wednesday night talks with Barker, chief executive Mark Catlin and finance director Tony Brown were constructive and positive.

While fans awaited news of the much-derided Blues boss’ exit, come 12.05am, when the gathering dispersed, he was still firmly in charge.

Feedback was given to the remaining six members of the club board that evening and early yesterday morning as opinions of how to handle the challenge of avoiding relegation were canvassed.

Around 11am, Catlin and club solicitor and board member Mike Dyer were present when a new resolution was agreed – only this time Barker would not be part of the future.

McInnes explained: ‘I had a strange feeling after the Rochdale game on Tuesday. I went outside and heard a huge cheer from a number of people in response to AFC Wimbledon’s 96th-minute equaliser.

‘I thought to myself that I didn’t want to rely on other teams and that kind of situation to keep us in the Football League.

‘The truth of the matter is we want our destiny in our own hands and that was the motivation for the conversation between myself, Mark Catlin and Richie on Wednesday night.

‘We regularly met on Wednesdays. This time we had to move it to the evening as Richie had a long-standing medical with the League Managers’ Association (LMA).

‘We have to find a way forwards to keep Pompey in the Football League so we talked about a number of issues and how we could get out of this.

‘For instance, we looked at what had happened at Chesterfield – which was days rather than weeks ago – and if we are capable of achieving that level of performance why cannot we do that more regularly?

‘At the end of the conversations there did look like a plan going forward to buy into and he agreed.

‘He was relaxed and we didn’t sack him that night – end of story.

‘By the time Richie came into the club in the morning, he had time to sleep on it and so had we. Him leaving was not a long conversation.

‘Our belief was if there was meat on the bone then we should gnaw on it. But overnight both had time to reflect and it didn’t seem to add up.

‘It was amicable, we felt it right to have a parting of the ways.’

Following consultation with the board after that Goodwood meeting, it was unanimously agreed Barker should depart.

First-team coach Alan McLoughlin and assistant manager Anthony Williams took training ahead of the trip to Newport County while Barker held Fratton Park discussions.

The players had arrived in heavy rain, some dashing through the Fratton end gates, while Jack Whatmough strode in underneath a small, pink umbrella.

They later emerged for training at their University of Portsmouth base, with the future of their manager still unclear.

Andy Awford, the new caretaker boss, eventually broke the news to them on their return.

Hours after that Williams would also be gone, while director of football Steve Coppell’s exit was confirmed yesterday evening.

As for Barker, his mutually-agreed farewell agreed, he cut a relaxed figure as he climbed into his silver Kia, bid goodbye to Catlin and Dyer and drove away.

There would be no comment, however, with the LMA said to be releasing a statement very soon.

In the hours that followed, Paul Hardyman was promoted from the Academy to help Awford and McLoughlin in the first-team set-up.

After 20 matches, four wins, 11 goals and nine clean sheets, Pompey had lost their second manager of another forgettable season.

For McInnes, though, he sensed Barker was a relieved man to leave a club which saw him receive such fierce criticism during his tenure.

He added: ‘Richie is a very, very professional and dedicated football manager, but it has not worked for him here. Sometimes that happens in life.

‘I have to say, there was more malice towards him than I have ever seen before at Pompey.

‘After five years of people suffering tremendous frustration, that was the reaction towards the manager.

‘And I’ve got a feeling he might be relieved to leave.’