Tributes have come in from across social media, with both friends and rivals paying their respects to the man who led Cardiff to promotion
Professional football player Chris Barker was found dead at his home in Cyncoed at 14:00 on Wednesday, Cardiff City have announced on social media.
South Wales Police confirmed the death of a man meeting Barker’s description. They have stated that they are not treating the incident as suspicious at this stage.
The 39-year old from Sheffield spent a five-year stint at Cardiff City from 2002 to 2007, helping the club to reach promotion two years in a row. He went on to make 159 appearances for the club and eventually broke into the League Championship, the second-highest division of the league system after the Premier League.
Tributes have been pouring in from Twitter, led by Cardiff City.
“Chris was an extremely popular player both on and off the field, serving the club with distinction between 2002 and 2007.
He was awarded the Cardiff City FC Player of the Season award for his efforts during our 2004/05 campaign.
We offer our deepest condolences to Chris’ family, friends, former team-mates and colleagues. He will be greatly missed by us all.
Details of a Club tribute to Chris will follow in the coming days. On behalf of Chris’ family, we’d ask for them to be afforded privacy at this very difficult time.”
Fans and friends have also made their voices heard, including Charlton Athletic midfielder Joe Ledley and former Cardiff captain Darren Purse.
@joe16led: “Devastating news to hear the loss of Chris Barker my thoughts are with his family and friends, One of the most down to earth guys I’ve met. Will be truly missed. Rest In Peace barks 💙”
@darrenpurse: “Waking up this morning to the terrible news that Chris Barker is no longer with us. A very hard working, loyal and trustworthy man who will be sadly missed. Rest well Barks. #RIPBarks”
Barker made his breakout performance as Barnsley’s ‘young player of the year’, becoming the first person in the club’s history to win the award twice. After three seasons in the First Division, he moved down to the next-lowest division in order to join Cardiff City. Then-Cardiff-manager Lennie Lawrence said that his 120 games in the First Division were impressive for someone so young, at just 22.
The move was thought at the time to be worth £500,000, with an extra £100,000 to be thrown in if Cardiff achieved promotion. The Bluebirds recalled him from a three-month loan to Stoke early in 2004, struggling to meet their usual standards on the pitch and fumbling the beginning of the season. After the end of his last season at Cardiff in 2007, he spent a year with Queens Park Rangers and three years with Plymouth Argyle, who were eventually relegated to League One.
After that, Barker’s professional prospects continued to dwindle. He started near the very top of the ladder, peaking at the League Championship, but ended up in the sixth- and eighth-lowest divisions overall, after a career spanning nearly twenty years.
Now this news comes at the worst possible time, with Cardiff fans still reeling from yesterday’s awful 6-1 defeat by QPR. After relegation from the Premier League last year and at an unremarkable 12th place out of 24, there’s a tough season ahead.