BARKER LIFTS LID ON HASLAM
Barker - I was forced out the door
CHAD.co.uk, 10July 2008
FORMER Stags star Richie Barker has finally lifted the lid off his controversial departure 18 months ago.
Full story here
The club captain and leading scorer had only recently signed a new three-year deal at Field Mill when he was sold out of the blue to Hartlepool United in January 2007.
He has kept his counsel ever since while waiting for the conclusion of a court case between his agent and former Stags owner Keith Haslam.
But Barker this week told Chad he was 'forced out the door', had wanted to spend the rest of his career at Mansfield and said he was very surprised to recently learn that the fee Haslam received for him at the time was actually as much as £100,000.
Previous to the court case it had been reported as £70,000 or undisclosed.
Barker also had high praise for Mansfield Town's supporters, many of whom knew he was going against his will, and admitted he would love to come back one day and manage the Stags.
"My time at Mansfield was probably the most enjoyable two years of my 17 years in professional football," he said.
"From a personal point of view I had never scored that number of goals in two and a half years.
"But from a team point of view it didn't go as I expected.
"The reason I went to Mansfield was to try to win something and progress my career.
"Unfortunately, due to circumstances, eventually we starting sliding down the league instead of sliding up it.
"I thought we were only three players short of being a top six side. It wasn't about quality – it was experience we were short on.
"We had a lot of quality young players like Alex John-Baptiste and Giles Coke who have gone on to do well. It worked wonders for them.
"But with another three players we would have been playing in front of crowds of 5,500 instead of 2,500. It became a depressing place for everyone towards the end.
"What happened was not what I was promised. After we lost in the Play-off final I expected we would go for it again and the team would be strengthened.
"Instead a lot of quality players and experience left and they brought young inexperienced players in."
Barker stressed he had been happy to commit the rest of his playing days to the Stags.
"I was very happy at Mansfield," he said. "I had a year left on my contract and I expected see out my career there. I was quite happy with where I lived and everything else, despite being disappointed by the lack of investment. So I was delighted to sign a new three year deal.
"But, if I am honest, I think the only reason they offered it me was because it made me worth more money.
"As soon as I had signed it the rumours started about me leaving.
"I suppose I felt it was a bit of a compliment to begin with as you don't get linked anywhere if you're not doing well.
"But leaving Mansfield was not what I wanted. I wanted to stay there a long time and score as many goals as possible.
"But I never ever went in to see the chairman and ask about the stories or knocked on Peter Shirtliff's door. As far as I was concerned they were just rumours until I hear different."
But that all changed very quickly.
"It was a day before I got a call from Peter Shirtliff as I ate lunch with my wife and he asked me if I was sitting down," recalls Barker.
"He told me we have accepted an offer for you – the chairman says everyone has their price. This was less than three and a half months after I had signed the new three year deal.
"I went to Hartlepool and it all felt a bit strange. I didn't really want to go - I had no reason to leave.
"But I knew in my head that once a club accepts a bid for you, if you don't go then it won't be long before they accept another one.
"I got through my mobile battery three times in one day as I rang round people asking for opinions. I had three sleepless nights.
"In the end I didn't go. The deal fell through. To be quite honest I made it very difficult for it to go through and even my agent asked me if I wanted to go.
"Thankfully Mansfield had tried to get in a centre forward to replace me, but it had fallen through so I went back and was so glad to be back in that dressing room on the Friday."
He added: "Ninety nine per cent of supporters were brilliant with me. I remember the first home game afterwards and the fans were chanting my name. It was just the sort of boost I was looking for.
"With fans it can go one way or the other but I think most of them appreciated I wanted to stay."
But, as he had suspected, the efforts to move him were far from over.
"Then it all came about again," he said. "It was 10pm on Christmas Eve and I was just putting up my kids' trampoline when the phone went and I was told the club had accepted another offer from Hartlepool. I would be leaving in the January window. That was a strange Christmas for me.
"We went to Darlington on Boxing Day and I scored what proved to be my final goal.
"We were due to play Hartlepool at home on New Year's Day and I was told if I played for Mansfield in that game then the deal was off.
"So I was very interested to see what team Billy Dearden put up and I was delighted when I saw I was in it. That was a double barrel success for me and I thought the deal would be off.
"But I found out the next day that wasn't true.
"I had spent the whole of my career wanting to be a club captain and I certainly appreciated Carlton Palmer making me that and Peter Shirtliff keeping me on.
"It is not something you would ever turn your back on whether you are at Mansfield or Manchester United. You felt appreciated for what you'd done.
"I have only just found out that Hartlepool paid £100,000 for me. I had read £70,000 or undisclosed fee before but I never realised they got that much for a 31-year-old. It was a lot of money for a club who got me on a free."
The move did not just affect Barker badly.
"It was tough for my whole family. They had all enjoyed coming to games and my lad was now a Stags fan – he still comes with me to matches when I come down.
"It was a big thing to say to him we are not going back there, we are going to a new place.
"It's true I would love to go back to Mansfield Town sometime as manager. I have made no secret of that and there was even the odd rumour it might happen while I was there.
"It would be the perfect place to work for me.
"Hopefully I will always be remembered for the goals and the effort I put in at Mansfield rather than being there at a bad time and then being forced out of the door."
Keith Haslam's failure to pay bills to Barker's agents, World In Motion, for organising the contract extension and the move to Hartlepool resulted in a court case last month which resulted in Stags being ordered to pay up £8,000.
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