Enough “passion” for you?

9 Aug

ONE of my pet hates about football fans is their obsession with “passion” and their odd misinterpretations of how it manifests itself.
For example, Paolo Di Canio’s appointment as manager of Sunderland last season was greeted with glee by supporters of the Wearsiders, who cast aside any doubts about his questionable man-management skills, his inability to manage a club without millions of pounds at his disposal and his controversial political views – simply because he is perceived to show “passion” on the sidelines.

Chris Barker has left the club by mutual consent

Chris Barker has left the club by mutual consent

Southend fans are just of guilty of this, lauding Bilel Mohsni for his “passion” despite his blatant unprofessionalism and his ability to let his team mates down on an almost weekly basis because of his indiscipline and total lack of positional sense. Just because a player roars his disapproval when we concede a goal, just because he attacks a post in anger having missed a chance (and therefore rendering him offside for the next attack), does not mean he is more “passionate” that one of his team mates who doesn’t do those things. It merely means he has anger management issues.
You see, you can be committed to the cause without picking up yellow cards on a fortnightly basis. You can give your all for a club without arguing with your own team mates, booting inanimate objects, and signing autographs for half the ground after games. One player who in my opinion had just as much passion for three years, but never left his team mates in the lurch was Chris Barker.
I think most of us recognised towards the tail end of last season, and particularly in the JPT final where he was up against a particularly nippy winger, that at the age of 33, pace was not something that Chris was gaining. The unkind phrase “his legs have gone” was used often by the Shrimpers’ faithful, not without a degree of truth to it.
But Barks was club captain throughout the Sturrock era, which may not have produced a promotion but could well be seen in years to come as one of the most crucial periods in this club’s history. One of the first to join in the infamous summer of 2010, where the club looked headed for a grim demise, he was deservedly named player of the year in his first season, where he and Mark Phillips formed a fine partnership in defence meaning a patched-together team avoided the trapdoor into non-league with ease.
He may not have been the quickest, but the Welshman’s game was never really built on pace. He was (and still is) a superb reader of the game, and proved the saying that the first ten yards are in the head to be true. During the 11/12 season, he was again a major player and part of a team that racked up 83 points but somehow did not get promoted. His solitary goal, in the dying moments of the playoff second leg against Crewe, was not quite enough to send the team to Wembley.
But Barker was not to be denied. If anyone really wanted to see what “passion” really is, how about last season’s Area Final against Leyton Orient, where despite struggling badly with an injury sustained in the first leg (which he played through during eight minutes of stoppage time), he took his place in the back line for the second leg despite not being fully fit, with Southend suffering a major injury crisis. He played through the pain to help the Blues to their first ever Wembley appearance, and his reward was to lead the team out at the national stadium.
He may not have pumped enough fists or gone for enough drinks with fans to be labelled a “legend” in Blues’ history, but Chris Barker certainly has his place in the clubs history. Farewell Chris, thanks for all you have done and good luck at your new club.


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