Frederick “Fred” Barber (born 26 August 1963) is an English former footballer who played as a goalkeeper and made nearly 400 Football League appearances. His most successful stints came early in his career with Darlington and Walsall, playing in over 100 league games for each club. He also spent over 15 years as goalkeeping coach at Bolton Wanderers.
Born in Ferryhill, County Durham, Barber began his career at Darlington in 1981, where he served his apprenticeship. Barber was notable for donning an mask on entering the field for most matches during his career. He made 135 Football League appearances for the club before a £50,000 move to First Division champions Everton in April 1986.
Signed as understudy to Neville Southall, but after six months and no first-team appearances for Everton, Barber was sold to Walsall for £100,000. In his second season with the club, Walsall were promoted to the Second Division, but then suffered successive relegations. Barber was loaned out to Peterborough United during the 1989–90 season, where he made six appearances. He was again loaned out during the 1990–91 season to Chester City on two occasions, in October 1990 and March 1991, accumulating eight appearances, and to Blackpool in November 1990 where he made two appearances. He also made appearances for Walsall during the same campaign, but moved to Peterborough on a permanent basis in the summer of 1991 for a £25,000 fee. Barber totalled 153 games for Walsall between 1986 and 1991.
Picture thanks to David Evans.
Barber made his second debut for Peterborough on 17 August 1991, keeping a clean sheet against Preston North End in a 1–0 victory. He helped the club to promotion to the Second Division with a 1992 play-off final victory over Stockport County, but the club struggled in the second tier. Barber found himself out on loan once again at Chesterfield in February 1993, but didn’t make an appearance for the club. He was then sent on loan to Colhester United, making his debut on 20 March 1993 in a 2–0 victory for the U’s at Brunton Park. He made 10 appearances for Colchester before returning to Peterborough. In the following season, despite Peterborough finishing bottom of the Second Division, Luton Town made a £25,000 offer for Barber, and he transferred in August 1994, ending his Posh stay with 63 appearances in three years.
Just four months had passed before Barber found himself back at London Road with Peterborough. Having made no first-team appearances for Luton, he was sent on loan where he played five league games. After this loan stint, he played one league game first at Ipswich Town in November 1995, and one league game in a return to Blackpool in December 1995. Barber finished his Football League career by joining Birmingham City in 1996, again making just a single appearance. His last club he actively played for was Kidderminster Harriers, where he made 21 Conference appearances before stepping into coaching.
Barber joined the coaching staff at Bolton Wanderers in 1996, serving as part-time goalkeeping coach under Colin Todd before becoming a full-time employee under Todd’s successor Sam Allerdyce. Barber had also been working at West Bromwich Albion as a coach until this point alongside Bryan Robson, but fully committed himself to Wanderers in 2004.
Barber was instrumental in the development of Finland goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen, who joined the club in 1997, making his international debut in 1998. Barber turned Jääskeläinen into one of the Premier League’s most consistent goalkeepers, then helping progress Hungary goalkeeper Ádám Bogdán who would later replace Jääskeläinen upon his exit from Bolton.
In 2007, Barber joined Nigel Worthington as a coach for the Northern Ireland national football team alongside his role at Bolton, where he would spend five years.
When Owen Coyle was appointed Bolton manager in 2010, Barber was forced to leave the club as Coyle sought to replace the back-room staff, bringing in former Burnley goalkeeping coach Phil Hughes. However, Barber’s protégé Jääskeläinen took exception to Hughes, calling a halt to his training session after just 30 minutes and told Coyle that he wanted Barber to be reinstated. Having already left Bolton, Coyle was forced to ask Barber to return to the club, which he accepted, becoming joint-goalkeeping coach, where Barber took charge of the day-to-day goalkeepers training regime.
Following Bolton’s relegation to the Championship in 2012, after 16 years coaching, Barber left the club. This also followed Jääskeläinen’s own exit as the club looked to refresh it’s back-room staff once again. He subsequently joined Bury under Kevin Blackwell on 4 October 2012, before being reunited with Worthington after being appointed assistant manager at League Two club York City on 4 March 2013. He left the club on 5 May 2013, going on to concentrate on his freelance goalkeeper coaching business.
In addition to Bolton, West Brom, Northern Ireland, Bury and York City, as a freelance coach, Barber has previously worked with Oman, Jamaica, Sunderland, Stoke City, Blackpool, Burnley, Bradford City, Stockport County and Rochdale. He also runs his own goalkeeping academy that has helped discover goalkeepers including Jääskeläinen, Bogdán, Ali Al-Habsi and Tomasz Kuszczak.
In January 2015 he moved to Crewe Alexandra as the goalkeeping coach, after holding a similar role at Burton Albion.
|1989||Peterborough United (loan)||6||(0)|
|1990||Chester City (loan)||3||(0)|
|1991||Chester City (loan)||5||(0)|
|1993||Colchester United (loan)||10||(0)|
|1994||Peterborough United (loan)||5||(0)|
|1995||Ipswich Town (loan)||1||(0)|