It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Under 18s manager Chris Barker.
"We're all heartbroken to hear this news, which came as a shock to everybody. Our immediate thoughts are with his family and friends,” said Hannah Dingley, Head of Academy, Forest Green Rovers.
“Barks was a strong, inspirational leader to our under 18s and a much loved colleague. We'll be offering help and support to those at the club affected by the tragic news - particularly our young players, and ask that Chris’ family get some privacy at this challenging time.”
Barks, 39, has played a key role in the development of our Academy since our promotion to the Football League.
He joined Forest Green in the summer of 2017 as manager of the Under 18 team following the club’s promotion to League Two, and played a key part in the work put in to get the club’s Academy to Category Three status.
The Sheffield-born defender begun his career at Barnsley, winning the club’s young player of the year award in his first full season and going on to win it twice and make more than 100 appearances for the club before moving to Cardiff City in 2002.
He continued to be a favourite with the fans with the Bluebirds, helping them to promotion in his first season, winning the supporters’ player of the season in 2004/05 and featuring in the FA Cup against Arsenal at Highbury in 2006.
After loan spells at Stoke City and Colchester United, he moved to Queens Park Rangers, signing for free on a two-year deal.
He made 25 appearances before joining Plymouth Argyle, returning to Home Park last season where he featured in a Central League fixture for FGR in familiar surroundings.
Barks played more than 50 times for the Argyle before heading to Southend United on loan, which became a permanent move and was a fantastic servant to the club, making in excess of 100 appearances, voted player of the year for the 2010/11 season and given the honour of the captain’s armband as his leadership qualities shone through.
After his contract was terminated by mutual consent in August 2013, he joined Aldershot Town the same day, where he played more than 70 games and was made player-manager in 2015.
In the twilight years of his career, he joined Hereford as player-coach in June 2016 before heading to National League South side Weston-super-Mare, as player/ assistant manager to Scott Bartlett, who brought him to The New Lawn as part of the Academy.
Last season, he guided the Under 18s to the Merit League Two title, which was celebrated on The New Lawn pitch at our final game of the season and continued his superb work with the Academy right up until his tragic passing.
His brother Richard is assistant manager at League One side Rotherham and the thoughts of everyone connected with Forest Green Rovers are with him and his family.
There will be a minute's applause ahead of our match with Crawley Town on Saturday, while the players will be wearing black armbands and laying a floral tribute ahead of the game.
We ask everyone to be respectful to the family at this time.