Former Shrewsbury Town boss Graham Turner: Richie Barker a great coach and top football man

Legendary former manager Graham Turner paid tribute to his Shrewsbury Town predecessor, ‘top coach and footballing man’ Richie Barker, who died this week.

Graham Turner, left, and Richie Barker
Graham Turner, left, and Richie Barker

Barker was the coaching and organisational hand to player-manager Alan Durban’s Shrewsbury Town – helping the club to promotion from Division Four as assistant in 1975.

Barker, who was 80 when he died, then took the top job in February 1977 – promoting experienced defender Turner to player-coach, before Turner took over, initially on a caretaker basis, when Barker left to become John Barnwell’s No.2 at Wolves in November 1978.

Town had started the campaign well and Turner continued with the team’s structure – a direct and effective style Barker had taken from his part in a powerful Notts County front three led by Jimmy Sirrel – and Shrewsbury lit up the Third Division on their way to the title.

Turner, who would share a car with Barker on the way to games as the duo worked closely together, remembers his remit well.

“We talked about it through the close season, my role compared to his. I think his instructions to me were ‘just get the team fit in pre-season’,” Turner said of the summer of 1978.

“So I put all the scheduling out for the hard work and he did all the team play and football side of things.

“I thought we complimented each other well with different responsibilities.

“He would do all the team talks, I’d chip in where I felt necessary.”

Turner said that Barker, who was a prolific forward in part-time football with Burton Albion before being signed by Brian Clough at Derby, was at home on the training pitch.

Barker would go on to manage Stoke and his former club Notts County, as well as stints in Greece and Egypt, where he enjoyed success with Zamalek, winning the equivalent of the European Cup.

“He did most of the coaching as assistant to Alan Durban and he was a very good coach.” added Turner.

“He was very clear in the way he wanted the team to play and set the side up accordingly.

“He was totally different from previous people I worked with. Totally organised from a team perspective.

“I’d say Richie was the first real coach I worked with in terms of a lot of team play.

“His sessions were always structured towards the shape of the team and I learned a lot from that.”

Many claim the foundations laid by Barker stood Shrewsbury in good stead for the remarkable success that lay ahead in the 1978/79 campaign.

“Having set the side up like that the sensible thing was to just keep things going when I took over, which is what we did,” added Turner, who remained in charge until the summer of 1984 before returning 26 years later.

“We’d got the style, the formation and that’s what we did from November until the end of May.

“You’ve got to remember the state of the pitches at that time. Richie played quite a few games at Notts County and they were always very direct – three big lads up front with a manager called Jimmy Sirrel. They were very direct and hard-working.

“They closed teams down with a high tempo with three giants up front.

“Richie brought that directness that was needed with the state of the pitches from December onwards with barely a blade of grass up the middle. It was the sensible way to play and we adapted quite well as players.”

Turner added of Barker, who spent much of his later life living in Market Drayton where he was a keen golfer with a handicap as low as six: “He was a decent bloke, easy to get on with, he was a real good footballing man.”

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