Shock at death of Suffolk footballer, 35

A FAMILY spoke of their “huge loss” last night after a 35-year-old footballer collapsed and died during a pre-season friendly.

Lizzie Parry

A FAMILY spoke of their “huge loss” last night after a 35-year-old footballer collapsed and died during a pre-season friendly.

Sporty father-of-two Wayne Barker, from Rendham, near Saxmundham, died on Saturday after suffering a suspected heart attack.

He had been playing for Saxmundham Sports Reserves in the match against Ufford Sports at Ufford recreation ground when he suddenly fell ill.

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Last night, his devastated parents Roy and Carol Barker, of Bruisyard Road, Rendham, paid a loving tribute to their son, who they said had lived a healthy lifestyle.

Mr and Mrs Barker said they could not believe he had gone and still expected to see him walk through the front door of the home they shared with him.

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Mr Barker said Wayne was not just his son but also a great friend.

"He had a real zest for life," he said. "He lived life to the full, he was a great footballer, and he loved darts and cricket too. He was a centre back and friends with everybody, the church will be packed at his funeral."

Mrs Barker said Wayne, who was a works manager at Hatcher Components based in Framlingham, was the life and soul of the party.

“He would liven up any party. He was a very special son, they both are.”

Wayne, who had a twin brother Dean, was father to Jake, 11 and Liberty, 7. Mrs Barker said her grandchildren had been very brave since the tragedy.

She said: "Jake has been so brave, he held his dad's hand in the hospital and spent some time saying goodbye to him. They are both so brave."

Mr and Mrs Barker said their son had not been ill prior to collapsing and led a healthy life, visiting the gym regularly as well as playing football and cricket.

They also thanked paramedics, doctors and nurses who tried to save his life.

Anne King, another family member, also paid tribute to Wayne. She said: "He was the life and soul of every party. He had the most wonderful affectionate laugh. He was a top bloke and a wonderful father."

Stephen King, secretary for the Ufford team involved in Saturday afternoon's match, said Wayne had asked to be substituted during the second half and as he was walking across the pitch he collapsed.

“Somebody rushed onto the pitch, he wasn't breathing and one of our players and the referee did mouth to mouth and CPR until the ambulance crews got there.

“It was a tragic shock for everybody, it was pretty sombre, we abandoned the game in disbelief.”

A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said crews treated Wayne at the scene before rushing him to Ipswich Hospital.

Suffolk police were informed of the sudden death by Ipswich Hospital at about 5.20pm, but stressed there were no suspicious circumstances.

The results of a post mortem examination are due today.

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