Smith’s biggest backer sacked
Richie Barker, the Crawley Town manager, left the club with immediate effect yesterday. The stunning development, with Crawley sitting twelfth in League One, could have ramifications for the future of Bermudian Jonte Smith.
The teenaged striker was an unused substitute during Crawley's goalless draws at home to Walsall and Swindon Town in their previous two outings.
And it remains to be seen how Barker's swift departure affects on Smith, whose one-year contract with the club expires next spring. Crawley are winless in their past seven in the league, with three draws coming on the back of four straight defeats. But it is their lack of proficiency in front of goal in that period that is most worrying because they have scored only once in that period.
Former Macclesfield Town striker Barker was appointed manager of Crawley in August 2012. Martin Hinshelwood, the chief scout, and Gary Alexander, a senior player, have been put in caretaker charge, although the latter is the bookmaker's favourite to be appointed full time.
The departure of Barker, who was almost instantly made favourite to take the reins at Portsmouth in League Two, arrived just days after Smith rejoined Crawley in England's third tier in the wake of two loan spells in non-League football with Havant & Waterlooville and Met Police.
The former North Village youth-team player earned his first professional contract in April 2012 after a prolific season with Crawley Under-18.
Smith scored his first senior goal in a pre-season friendly against Bromley before making his first-team debut against AFC Bournemouth last December. But it was while out on loan that he flourished and that encouraged Barker to sign off on a one-year extension to his initial one-year in March.
In a previous interview with this newspaper, Barker spoke on Smith's progress at the club. “He's come a long way in a short time,” he said. “I took over the job in August last year and at the time he looked like a youth-team player who had just progressed to training with the pros. And then we put him out on loan and he had a fairly prolific time.”
Smith was loaned out to Met Police, of the Ryman Premier League side, where he banged in 24 goals in 19 appearances.
“He came back a different person,” Barker added. “The environment we try and create now is a learning one where the players come in every day and hopefully learn something and go away better players. And, to be fair to Jonte, he's bought into that and is starting to reap the rewards.”
Michael Dunlop, the Crawley chief executive, said the search for a new manager is under way with applications having already been received.
“We've already had a lot of interest and of course in an ideal world we would like to have someone in place quickly, but it might take some time to get the right person,” he said. “Identifying the right candidate could take a few days, it could take longer but the absolute priority is making sure that it's the right appointment.
“In the meantime everyone at the club is fully behind Martin and Gary and I'm sure those supporters who travel to Crewe on Saturday will give them and the team great backing. We have every confidence that they will do a good job, no matter how long they are in the post.”