Southend United were extremely saddened to learn of the passing of former captain Chris Barker at the age of 39 on New Year’s Day.
‘Barks’ will be remembered fondly by all Southend United supporters as a hard-working and tough-tackling defender, who joined the club under Paul Sturrock in August 2010. It was a challenging time for the club and Sturrock had been appointed manager with just two players left on contract from the previous campaign.
Chris answered Sturrock’s call to arms and joined the Blues on a free transfer from Plymouth Argyle. He was a terrific defender, equally capable as either a left sided centre back or at left back. He was truly outstanding in his first season at Roots Hall, starting 47 matches and being voted Player of The Year by the supporters. He was also vice-captain to Craig Easton in that first campaign.
Chris took over as club captain for the following season and led the club to fourth place in League Two. The play off semi-finals were lost to Crewe Alexandra over two legs but Barker chose a golden moment to score his only goal for Southend, an 88th minute equaliser at Roots Hall which reduced the score to 3-2 on aggregate. Sadly, a further goal proved impossible and it was Crewe that went on to the Wembley final.
The following season Chris captained the club at Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, again against Crewe Alexandra. Sadly, it was the Railwaymen once again that ended on the winning side as Southend started a new era under Phil Brown. Chris left the club in August 2013 having made 142 league and cup appearances for the Blues.
Chris had started his playing career at youth level with Alfreton Town before being spotted by Barnsley who offered him the chance to join his older brother, Richie, in the professional game. At Oakwell he won the Young Player of the Year twice in his first two seasons and was sold to Cardiff City for £600,000 in July 2002.
He was a regular in the City side that won promotion to League One via the play-offs. He would later have loan spells with Stoke City and Colchester United but remained hugely popular in Cardiff. He joined Queens Park Rangers in June 2007 and a year later moved on to Plymouth Argyle who were also a Championship club at that time.
After leaving Roots Hall in 2013 Chris spent three seasons with Aldershot Town, taking over as player-manager in January 2015. His final season as player, 2016/17, was spent in player/coach roles with Hereford and then Weston-super-Mare. More recently, Chris had been coaching in the academy set up at Forest Green Rovers.
Chris was a true gentleman, a born leader, and a fantastic footballer, always finding the time to talk to the club’s supporters. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by everyone at our club.
Southend United wish to offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and teammates of our hugely respected former captain.