A match for Chris Barker

A match to remember the life of former Argyle defender Chris Barker will take place at the end of May, with a number of his former teammates taking part.

Barks, who played 58 times for the Greens, tragically passed away in 2020.

He joined Argyle in 2008, initially on loan, from Queen Park Rangers before that loan was made permanent.

He signed a three-year deal at Home Park, and he was a regular fixture in the side over the next two seasons.

Chris’ impact in the Argyle dressing room was evident as he was named captain by manager Paul Sturrock and started the Greens’ FA Cup third round tie at Arsenal.

Sturrock then re-signed Chris when he took over at Southend United and has been quoted in saying that Barks was one of his best signings.

To honour Chris’ memory, a selection of former teammates, including former Pilgrims’ trio Ryan Leonard – who will referee - Peter Gilbert and Darren Purse, will take to the field for a memorial match with all the proceeds going to SECE Mind.

Both Ryan and Peter were teammates of Chris during his spell in Essex playing and captaining Southend, while Darren played with him at Cardiff City.

The full back led the Shrimpers out at Wembley for the EFL Trophy final in 2013 and played over 100 times for the side.

Gilbert, who shared a room with Chris during his time at Southend, said that once he heard about the fixture, he wanted to be involved.

He said, “When I found out about it, I obviously wanted to get involved with it.

“He was just such a great bloke; a simple guy who didn’t ask for much, but he was a very caring guy.

“He always looked out for other players and wanted the best for everybody.

“The way he led was so natural, he wasn’t necessarily a shouter, but he demanded respect.

“He was very humble and always wanted to make everyone feel included.

“It’ll be an emotional day, but it’ll be a nice day, everyone who is there loved him and remembers him fondly.”

Journalist Chris Phillips, who covers Southend United, has organised the match and has been blown away by the reaction.

He said, “It’s been quite emotional really. Everybody wants to help; I think because he helped so many people in the past.

“I put the game together as an idea, to celebrate him and wasn’t so sure about how popular it would be.

“The amount of people who have got in touch and shown interest proves just how many lives he touched and how well respected he is.

“I want it to be a celebration of Chris, to remember him and to raise money for a great cause.

“He was a great man, a great footballer of course, but he was a true gentleman.

“He was always fair and considered and everyone respected him massively.

“So many people have got in touch, former teammates, journalists, coaches, who have so many stories to say about him. He is held is such high esteem.”

‘A Game for Barks’ will be played at Southend United’s Roots Hall ground on Saturday, 28 May and will see Chris’ former Shrimpers teammates take on a side of made up of those who he played alongside at other clubs.

Special kits have been made for the occasion and all will have the number 23 on the back, Chris’ number when at Southend.

All shirts will be auctioned off after the match with all the proceeds going to SECE Mind.

As much as ‘A Game for Barks’ is a celebration for Chris, it is also a place where people can talk about troubles they are experiencing.

Chris, the event organiser said, “We want people to have a fun day, we want people to remember Barks and share their memories of him. But we also want this to be a time and a place where people can come forward, share their feelings.

“We want to encourage people to speak about and get the right help if they need it, that’s the most important thing.”

Tickets for the match, which kicks off at 3pm, will soon be on sale, priced £5 adults and £1 concessions.

There is also a Just Giving page for the event, which can be found here.

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