Rotherham United Assistant Manager Richie Barker spoke to iFollow Millers ahead of Wednesday night’s Papa John’s Trophy semi-final showdown with Hartlepool United.
A victory would see the Millers book their fifth trip to Wembley Stadium for the showpiece final, but they know they face a tough a evening at Suit Direct Stadium, against a Pools side looking to reach the National Stadium for the first time in their history.
Barker – who won promotion in the North East a player – discussed the time he spent at Hartlepool, as well as delivering the latest on injury issues for Freddie Ladapo, Rarmani Edmonds-Green and Mickel Miller.
Barker on MK Dons result…
“We were disappointed in the manner of the defeat and looking back now, a draw probably wouldn’t have been the worst result.
“The only positive is that we have another game – and an important one at that – coming up quickly.
“We’ve often spoke about how, when we win on a Saturday, we don’t get to enjoy it as much because of a midweek game.
“Now it is the other way around.
“We will analyse Saturday’s match, but in a way it is nice to have a break from the league and talk about something different.”
Barker on the importance of drawing a line under Saturday’s result…
“Right back in September we lost at home to Fleetwood and we told the lads that runs of four or five unbeaten are not going to get your promoted.
“We then went on a long unbeaten run on both occasions and if we do that again, following Saturday’s result, we will achieve what we want to achieve.
“The players have been excellent this season, in terms of responding to setbacks, which have been few and far between in fairness.
“They have reacted well to difficult times and we’re hoping that is going to be the case again.
“I think we need to be careful that we don’t get too downhearted about Saturday’s result, the league table still looks extremely healthy.
“I’m not hiding behind the fact that we should have won the game or that we weren’t at our best, but who is for 46 games a season?
10 months is a long time for elite sportsmen to be their best and at the moment, we’re top because in the previous eight months we’ve been the best team, so far.”
Barker on staying focused until the end of the campaign…
“We all knew it was never going to be easy and that MK Dons were going to be a very a tough team to play against.
“We aren’t a complacent group and that is shown by the runs that we’ve been on. They are human beings though and sometimes it can be very tough to keep churning out performances like we have been, three times a week.
“unfortunately, sometimes, things don’t go your way. But we’re in March and that was the first time we’ve lost at home since September.
“We’ve got 10 big games left in the league and a very important cup game coming up, too.”
Barker on Freddie Ladapo…
“He’s had a scan and we’re just waiting for the result of that, really. Sometimes you can get a scan and you’re scanning to give players confidence in the injury and to show them that it is not as bad as they think.
“He’s played enough football to mean that we don’t have to train him until we know the results, hopefully we’ll know more later today.”
Barker on Rarmani Edmonds-Green…
“He’s always in good spirits and definitely getting closer to a return, too. It’ll be good to have him back because in terms of the number of games we have, it is important to have different options.
“I’m pretty certain he’ll be in the squad, we’ll get through training today and make a decision on how match ready we think he is.
“He’s a young man who has repaired pretty quickly and kept himself in good condition."
Barker on Mickel Miller…
“He’s got a chance to be involved against Hartlepool, we will have a look at him in training and hopefully look towards getting them through it.”
Barker on other injury news…
“We had some illness in the camp last week, Shane was a big one last week, struggling with training but he seems okay now.
“So far, from what I’ve heard this morning, I’ve not been told that someone is missing training through illness, which is positive.
“The game being on Wednesday impacts our thinking a little, fortunately, we have five substitutions.”
Barker on the prospect of Wembley…
“First and foremost, as a player, the chance to play at the most famous stadium in the world is one not to be sniffed at.
“I unfortunately never go to play their myself.
“They won’t need any motivation for that and neither will the players from Hartlepool, either.
“It is a nice welcome distraction but it is about ensuring we come away with a result that will give everyone at the football club a memorable day at Wembley.”
Barker on his time at Hartlepool…
“I had a really good two years there. I arrived around Christmas time and we had a rise up the league from 16th to automatic promotion, of course that wasn’t all down to me!
“It is a fantastic place, with some great people and one I made some really great friends at. The two groups I speak to most from my career are the ones I gained promotion with.
“My standout moment was scoring the winner that got us promoted away at Wycombe, from an Andy Monkhouse cross! It was a special time there.”