Wolves legends pay tribute after death of Richie Barker

Club legends John Richards and Kenny Hibbitt led the tributes to former Wolves assistant boss Richie Barker following his death at the age of 80.

Richie Barker with the League Cup in Wolverhampton in March 1980.
Richie Barker with the League Cup in Wolverhampton in March 1980.

As No.2 to John Barnwell, Barker played a key role in masterminding the 1980 League Cup final win over Nottingham Forest, which remains the club’s last major trophy success.

“In many ways John and Richie were the perfect coaching team,” said Richards, who along with Hibbitt was part of the team which defeated Forest, then the reigning European champions, 1-0 at Wembley.

“John was a great man-manager. He would be the one putting his arm around your shoulder.

“Richie was very much the tactician.

“He worked you hard in training, told you where you were going wrong.

“As a team, it just worked really well.

“Together they made some big changes at Wolves and brought success on the pitch.”

Born in Loughborough, Barker was a prolific striker for non-league Burton Albion before being handed his shot in the professional game by Brian Clough at Derby County.

Spells at Notts County and Peterborough followed before he embarked on a coaching career which began at Shrewsbury, where he spent nine months as manager in 1978 and is credited with laying the groundwork for the club’s 1979 Division Three title success.

After linking up with Barnwell at Wolves he helped make the signings of Andy Gray and Emlyn Hughes. The finest hour, meanwhile, would come at Wembley against Clough, his former manager.

Barker is widely credited with the tactical switch which saw Peter Daniel switch from midfield to the right wing, with the aim of neutralising the threat of John Robertson.

It was Daniel’s long ball which was then misjudged by Forest keeper Peter Shilton, allowing Gray to score the simplest of winners.

“That day John Barnwell and Richie Barker out-thought Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. There is probably no greater compliment than that,” says Richards.

“Richie was always very straight with the players and always honest. Sometimes he could be brutally honest but always in a profound way. He always let you know where you stood.

“Richie had a lot of good ideas and together with John Barnwell helped deliver a lot of success to Wolves,” said Hibbitt. “He was a likeable bloke, very good on the training ground. He had his beliefs over how things should be done and was always ready to get those across.”

Barker would leave Molineux in 1981 to take the manager’s job at Stoke. After a spell in charge of Notts County, his career moved abroad to Greece and Ethnikos Piraeus and Egyptian club Zamalek, with whom he won the African equivalent of the Champions League.

He returned to England with Sheffield Wednesday, where he was assistant to both Ron Atkinson and Trevor Francis.

Barker also spent time as Albion’s chief scout, taking caretaker charge of one match following the sacking of Ray Harford in 1997.

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