BARKER MAKES FIT­TING FAREWELL

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

SHAUN Barker said an emo­tional farewell to Derby County fans this week in a star-stud­ded tes­ti­mo­nial at the iPro.

Barker, 33, suf­fered a cat­a­strophic knee in­jury against Not­ting­ham For­est in March 2012 that re­quired four op­er­a­tions and put him out of ac­tion for over three years.

De­spite battling back to ap­pear for the club’s Un­der-21s last sea­son, the cen­tre-back was re­leased by the Rams in May 2015 and sub­se­quently forced to re­tire.

But on Thurs­day night, the for­mer Black­pool man laced up his boots one last time as a leg­ends side fea­tur­ing the likes of Igor Sti­mac, Seth John­son, Steve Howard and Marco Gab­bia­dini took on Derby’s cur­rent crop.

Hon­our

“It was huge hon­our, a great game and a fit­ting way to say good­bye,” said Barker, who scored two penal­ties in his side’s 10-9 vic­tory.

“I’d planned to do 45, maybe 60 min­utes. In the end, I man­aged to last the full 90 so I’m ab­so­lutely knack­ered!

“It’s the cul­mi­na­tion of four years of want­ing to play football. To play with the Un­der-21s here was very emo­tional and a huge, huge mo­ment for me. But to be back at the iPro, in front of a big crowd – I’m very proud.

“This all hap­pened be­cause I didn’t get a chance to say farewell to the fans last year. I haven’t played for four years and I’ve been away for nearly a sea­son so to get nearly 10,000 peo­ple turn­ing out just shows you what a spe­cial bunch they are.”

High­lights of the evening saw Gab­bia­dini be­ing stretchered off by Tom Ince and Johnny Rus­sell, Barker pick­ing an 11-year-old from the crowd to take a penalty and a re­turn for 20-year-old star­let Will Hughes, miss­ing since the open­ing day of the sea­son with a se­ri­ous knee in­jury.

“It was nice to fi­nally play with Will,” said Barker. “I saw him get nur­tured from a very young age and go from strength to strength.

“He’s been a huge miss for the club this year. He’s such a ta­lent. Ev­ery­thing seems to be in slow mo­tion when Will’s on the ball. See­ing him come back was a big mo­ment for the club.”

Other Derby favourites who played in the game in­cluded Paul Peschisolido and Ho­ra­cio Car­bonari, and Barker thanked all those who turned out at just 12 weeks’ no­tice.

“I was de­lighted to get so many peo­ple from dif­fer­ent eras,” he said. “The idea was for dads to sit with their sons and daugh­ters and say ‘I used to watch Gab­bia­dini or Michael Forsyth when I was your age’.

“It’s funny be­cause when the older lads first come into the chang­ing room, they all go ‘Just give me ten min­utes, I’ll be happy with that’.

“But once they’re out there, it’s im­pos­si­ble to get them off. They were on their knees at times but I know they en­joyed it. It was a great cel­e­bra­tion of the club.”

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