WHEN it comes to facing Blackpool, Shaun Barker is beginning to wonder if he’s cursed.
The Derby defender, who has nothing but fond memories of his time with the Seasiders and still has lots of mates at the club, will sit out tonight with a knee injury.
He missed both Championship games against Pool two years ago because of a thigh problem.
It’s a tad frustrating to say the least. “My luck’s been out on that front so far because I’d love to face the boys,” said Barker, who joined the Rams in a £1m move in summer 2009.
“Unfortunately I had a knee op in the summer and there were more problems in there than expected so it is has progressed slowly. Hopefully I’ll be back in the next month.
“It is a shame I can’t be involved tonight, though, because I hope I’d have got a decent reception from the Blackpool fans too. I think I left under the right circumstances.
“I wasn’t desperate to go. Ollie was really good with me. It just felt like it was the right deal for both clubs and I left on good terms.
“That was the only way I wanted to go. I didn’t want to kick up a fuss or moan. I just thought the opportunity was too good at the time to turn down.”
The irony, of course, was that while Derby struggled, Blackpool embarked on a remarkable promotion campaign.
Barker was a little envious. Who wouldn’t be? But his main emotion was delight for his old employers and he reckons the club could do the business again this season.
“I think they will finish top six,” the centre-back said. “I know they lost players but they have made the right kind of signings.
“They are no longer a club that is happy surviving in the Championship. They want to get themselves back to the top division and bringing in Kevin Phillips and Barry Ferguson shows their intent.
“I hope they do well because I’m still pals with most of the lads.
“The likes of Keith Southern, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Stephen Crainey, Matt Gilks and Ian Evatt I’m very good mates with. I went out with Alex Baptiste during the summer and caught up with him again. Even the lads who are now at different clubs, like David Fox, I still keep in touch with.
“The boys were, and still are, a very close-knit unit and I think that is one of the main reasons they have done so well over the last four or five years.
“What they’ve got is a thing for other clubs to envy.”
Barker might be temporarily out of action but when he returns, he’ll play a big part in Derby’s season. He has been made captain by Nigel Clough and believes this will be the year when the Rams become a Championship side to be reckoned with.
Asked to name the biggest threats to the Seasiders tonight, the 28-year-old said: “We’ve a young, hard-working squad, which I think is stronger and more equipped to get higher in the league. This year we shouldn’t be looking over our shoulders.
“Steve Davies (23-year-old striker) has scored in both our league wins so far. He has a fantastic left foot, as anyone who saw his goal at Watford on Saturday will know – he cut inside and curled the ball into the top corner.
“Ben Davies (midfielder, signed on a free from Notts County in January) has been scoring in pre-season and his set-pieces are outstanding. I haven’t seen anyone better at putting the ball into the box right on the money every time.”
Derby signed nine players during the summer, including the experienced Kevin Kilbane, Kilmarnock captain Craig Bryson, former Sheffield United striker Jamie Ward and Blackburn keeper Frank Fielding.
Barker reckons they’re good. He also thinks the Seasiders will make the play-offs. Both clubs have started their season with back-to-back wins. All of which means tonight’s contest should be a cracker.