Barker: Connolly wanted to go – but he may be back

David Connolly fires goalwards during Pompey's forgettable trip to Newport in the Johnstone Paint Trophy earlier this season Picture: Joe Pepler
David Connolly fires goalwards during Pompey's forgettable trip to Newport in the Johnstone Paint Trophy earlier this season Picture: Joe Pepler

Richie Barker has reiterated it was David Connolly’s decision to leave Pompey on loan.

But the Blues boss has not ruled out the veteran striker having a Fratton future upon his summer return from Oxford.

Connolly’s surprise departure for the U’s on deadline day of the January transfer window drew strong criticism from some Pompey supporters.

Since then he has netted three times in six games – most recently in the weekend 1-1 draw at Morecambe.

The 36-year-old’s Fratton Park stay had soured in the build-up to his exit, with niggling injuries restricting his availability, while he was without a league goal since August.

In addition, following Barker’s arrival, Connolly’s coaching role was marginalised.

Then came the Oxford switch, where the former Republic of Ireland international has started just two of Oxford’s matches so far, without completing 90 minutes in either.

Nonetheless, he has scored three times, reflecting the impressive goal-scoring credentials he often showed at the Blues.

Barker, though, is adamant Connolly’s desire for regular first-team football was the driving force behind his loan switch to the Kassam Stadium.

And with a Pompey contract to the summer of 2015, he could be back.

‘David asked to leave – he wanted to play more football. But from what I can gather, he has only started two games anyway so his football is no different from what it was before,’ said Barker.

‘It was down to him wanting to play more football, which is fair enough. If I was getting towards the end of my career, I would want to play more football as well.

‘It was a conversation we had. I asked him if he wanted to play more football and he said “yes I do”. He thought he was going to go and play at Oxford.

‘At the time we were without Tom (Craddock) and knew we would be without him for a long time, so I was going to have to bring people in anyway.

‘We only had three strikers in David, Pat (Agyemang) and Ryan Bird.

‘We needed them whether anybody left or not. And, obviously, when the lads came in I think David saw his chances even less – and I haven’t got a problem with people wanting to play football.

‘He’s just on loan until the end of the season, until he tells me any differently.

‘If he wants to go and play more football elsewhere then we will have that conversation in the summer.

‘It’s not over for him at Pompey. He has got a decision to make over the summer and we will sit down and have a conversation with him.’

Unquestionably, there have been issues on both sides which led to the relationship becoming strained between manager and player. Although, Barker has every empathy with Connolly desiring to play more football at his age.

‘When I was getting towards the end, I was playing in and out for Hartlepool and had the chance of going to Rotherham,’ added Barker.

‘I thought “Right, I am going to play, I’ve got two years left so I’m going to play as much as I can”.

‘I didn’t want to spend my time travelling around and not playing.

‘Players getting towards the end of their career should want to play. When you are getting towards the end you should play as much as you can.’