Friends and family mourn 'fantastic father'

FRIENDS and colleagues have continued to pay touching tributes to “one in a million” footballer Wayne Barker, calling him a “fantastic father.”

Lizzie Parry

FRIENDS and colleagues have continued to pay touching tributes to “one in a million” footballer Wayne Barker, calling him a “fantastic father.”

The 35-year-old from Rendham, near Saxmundham, died after he collapsed playing football on Saturday.

The Saxmundham Sports Reserves player was playing against Ufford Sports at the Ufford recreation ground when he suffered a suspected heart attack.

The father-of-two was described as a hero to 11-year-old Jake and seven-year-old Liberty.

Kim Piper, the mother of his devastated children, who was married to Wayne for nine years, said he had a “heart of gold.”

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“He was one in a million and his kids idolised him. They are being really brave.

“The hardest thing in the world was telling them their hero had died. I will do everything in my power to help them remember him.

“He was planning a life with his new girlfriend Pauline, he was so happy with her and I was so happy for them. He really was a fantastic I always loved him and I always will.”

Speaking on behalf of Saxmundham Sports FC Carl Page, who was playing with Wayne on Saturday, said Wayne, known as 'Skip' at the club was a valued member of the team.

He had played for the club for years, starting as a youth team player, graduating to play in the adult teams.

He was a former captain at the club - hence the nickname 'Skip'- and won both manager and players' player of the year in 2005/06.

“Wayne was a fantastic player to have in the dressing room, always cracking jokes and his infectious laugh will long be remembered,” Mr Page said.

“On the pitch he always gave 100% and played hard, but win, lose or draw he would be ready for a drink and a laugh in the bar after the game.

“Wayne is a massive loss and will be sadly missed by all involved at the club. We are still in shock that this could have happened to a giant of a man in the prime of his life and the forthcoming season will be dedicated to him.

“We would like to thank the referee and Ufford player for their efforts in assisting Wayne on the pitch together with the paramedic and ambulance crews.

“Our thoughts, of course, are with his family at this very difficult time and we hope they can take strength in the knowledge of how well he was loved and respected by those that knew him.”

Continuing the heartfelt tributes Pat Betts, chairman of Hatcher Components, Wayne's employers said he would be sadly missed.

“Wayne was an enthusiastic and hard working factory manager who had been with Hatcher for over 16 years.

“His twin brother Dean became an employee about a month after Wayne and his father joined us around nine years ago.

“Wayne was popular throughout the company and everyone respected his can-do attitude and positive outlook.

“The mood in the company this morning was quiet and reflective as friends and co-workers came to terms with his sudden death.

“He was a lovely man, a good friend and colleague who will certainly be missed here.

Yesterday the chief executive of Suffolk FA Martin Head said everyone had been shocked at the tragic loss of a talented player.

“The tragic circumstances were awful for everybody involved,” he said. “We were all very shocked it is devastating for everyone involved.

“He was a fit young man who had enjoyed playing football all his life. It is terribly tragic for everyone involved.

“We send our condolences to the family and friends of Wayne.”