AFTER two attempts at relaunching his career lower down the Football League which he brands as disastrous, George Barker is confident Swindon Town will provide him with the perfect platform to fulfil his true potential.
Barker signed an 18-month contract with Town on Tuesday after the Robins shelled out an undisclosed fee to Brighton for the striker. The move marks the end of a frustrating five years for the 22-year-old who, after turning professional with the Sussex club, has found chances few and far between.
Barker only made four substitute appearances for the Seagulls while the frontman experienced two miserable loan spells at Barnet and Newport County in search of regular first-team football.
The former, in December 2012, saw him feature just once in League Two for the Bees while the latter was even less effective as Barker played 29 minutes over two substitutes appearances for the South Wales outfit.
Barker explained that circumstance has contributed significantly to his loan nightmares, starting when the man who signed him for Barnet - Mark Robson - was replaced by Edgar Davids at the London club.
“Going to Barnet was a bit of a strange one because the manager that signed me - Mark Robson - was only there for a week or so and then he got sacked or left. With Edgar Davids it was a bit of a nightmare,” he told the Advertiser.
“He wanted to play his own players which is fair enough, he didn’t sign me, so it was a bit of a one-off that one.
“There was nothing I could really have done.
“I think everyone would say he is a bit of hard work.
“I think Edgar Davids came in and completely took over and for the boys that had already been playing under Mark it was hard for them to start over again with a new manager - especially someone coming in on loan.
“I have to give him respect, if he didn’t want to play me it wasn’t because of something I hadn’t done right it’s just the way it went.”
At Rodney Parade Barker suffered a similar fate. He suggested Newport boss Justin Edinburgh hadn’t wanted him in the first place.
“I went to Newport and was told I was going to play and later on I heard that it was more the backroom at the club that signed me than the gaffer,” he said.
“When they’re going behind the gaffer’s back and signing a player that he didn’t want to sign it’s not very good for me, is it?
“I thought as soon as I heard that there was no chance of me playing. That’s what happened there.
“He was good with me, the assistant was good with me but it was the club that signed me more than the actual manager and he didn’t see me in his plans.”
With his chances under Oscar Garcia at Brighton thinning out by the day, the opportunity to link up with his former coach, Luke Williams, and a wealth of familiar faces was too good to miss out on.
“I wanted to play as much as any player when I went out on loan and I was giving it 100 per cent every time I did but there were two cases where I’ve been out on loan and it’s just been a disaster,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s been down to playing, it’s been down to the management.
“Brighton is a good club, it’s done well in the last few years getting to the Championship and the play-offs last season “They’ve got a really good squad, there are only one or two youngsters playing in that team and for me I want to be playing on a regular basis.”
Swindon’s current management team is not the first to show an interest in Barker in recent years.
An agent who worked closely with the Paolo Di Canio regime during his first year in charge of the club in 2011/12 has told the Advertiser that Barker was mooted as a possible signing, only for the Italian to look elsewhere.
Barker was unaware of that interest, however, saying: “In literally just the last few months I’ve heard about it - since Luke’s been here and some of the lads.
“That’s when the real interest has come and when I heard about it I had an open mind to speak to them about coming here.”
Barker was drawn to the County Ground by the possibility of regular first-team football and the chance to team up with old friends.
The 22-year-old knows several of the Robins’ squad and staff from his time at Brighton & Hove Albion and is excited about the prospect of resurrecting his career in Wiltshire.
He is close friends with Grant Hall, the on-loan Spurs defender, and assistant coach Luke Williams and sees Swindon as the perfect place to get the gametime he craves.
“I knew a bit about the club before I came here, it’s obviously got quite a good set-up and I can see the average age is quite young which is good for myself. I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” he told the local media this lunchtime.
“All the staff have been really good, all the players have been really welcoming so I’m really pleased with it.
“I’ve been in recent contact with Luke and a few of the players. Ever since Luke went from Brighton I’ve spoken to him on a regular basis and he’d say to me ‘what do you think about coming to Swindon’.
“I jumped at the chance to come here because the main thing I wanted to do was play games and I wasn’t doing that at Brighton so it’ll be a good chance.
“I was good friends with Grant at Brighton so to be around him again is good and there are a few Tottenham boys on loan. Because it’s such a young squad it’s good.”
“I’m here to give 100 per cent in whatever I do - training, games, whatever I do. The main thing is to play games. If I get the chance I’m going to take it with both hands,” he said.
“I’ve come here to do what I do best and that’s score goals and create goals and that’s the aim.”