BARKER PLAYS THROUGH PAIN BARRIER
OUT COLD, LIMPING... BUT BARKER FIGHTS ON
Evening Post, 19 October 2006, by MATT HALFPENNY
Richard Barker feels the recent criticism he has received is unjustified - because he has been playing through the pain barrier for Mansfield.
The club captain has come under fire from sections of Stags supporters in the past few games who believe his performances have been sub-standard.
But Barker, 31, has taken painkillers to play on in the past five weeks with a cracked bone in his foot that he sustained in the 2-0 defeat at Hartlepool.
The ongoing injury has never been made public, but the striker has decided that the time is right to set the record straight.
"I got the crack in the match against Hartlepool - the same game that I was knocked out," said Barker.
"I could have easily knocked it on the head for six weeks and rested up, but I haven't - I have kept playing.
"I looked at the situation and spoke to the manager about it and he has asked me to keep playing and do what I can.
"If I'd had a spell out, then people would be behind me and looking forward to me coming back. But because I have stayed on the pitch and just because I haven't scored for seven or eight games, some people are turning against me and writing me off.
"People are entitled to that opinion, but from my point of view I don't want anything to do with them.
"After everything that I have put in over the last couple of years, the reaction over the last few weeks has been disappointing.
"It makes me feel that sometimes now I wish I hadn't played on.
"But if I have a chance then I will always play, even if it's through the pain.
"I don't want to make excuses. But I just want people to know the full facts before they judge me."
Barker says that he is finally starting to get back to full fitness after a nasty run of injuries.
First he had five stitches in his head injury suffered in the 1-0 defeat at Wycombe.
Then, at Hartlepool, Barker picked up his foot injury before going off after being knocked out following a clash of heads with Gary Liddle.
He said: "You are not supposed to play again for three weeks after you have been knocked out and I had only just had five stitches. I couldn't head the ball properly in training but I wanted to carry on and keep playing.
"I suppose I went downhill from after the Hartlepool game and the injuries I have had might go some way to explain why I have not played as well.
"The specialist I saw about my foot told me I wouldn't do it any more harm playing, but that it would give me a lot of pain until it cleared up.
"I think that was part of why I missed the penalty a couple of weeks ago (against Accrington) because I couldn't strike the ball like I wanted to.
"But it is getting better now, even though it is still not 100%, and I think you saw the difference with the penalty I scored against Boston."