Three years is a long time in football, as Darren Barr can testify.
He is currently embroiled in the summer scramble for a club after being released by Ross County. In June 2012, he was still basking in the glory of a goalscoring performance in Hearts’ 5-1 Scottish Cup final win over Hibs the previous month. His career has since suffered a sudden descent –through little fault of his own – and Barr now needs someone to take a chance on him.
He is 30 and fully fit after two years of injury problems. When leaving Hearts in 2013, he had enjoyed three national cup finals in four years – the 2009 Scottish Cup final with Falkirk, and then the 2012 Scottish Cup final and the 2013 League Cup final with Hearts. He was in danger of becoming a cup final regular until injuries took a cruel hold of his career.
Neck and hip complaints disrupted Barr’s year at Kilmarnock and resulted in him being released last summer. He joined County, but managed only six appearances before a cruciate ligament injury finished his season in November. Barr was given support to recuperate but ultimately wasn’t given a new contract at the end of the season and is now hunting new employers.
He will consider any offers, be they from Scotland’s Premiership or Championship. Hearts remains the highlight of Barr’s career and, if possible, he wants to recreate that prosperity. First, he simply needs a manager somewhere to gamble on him and give him an opportunity for next season.
“I had a great time at Hearts, I absolutely loved it. I played with some absolutely tremendous players, got to two cup finals and really enjoyed it there,” he told the Evening News. “It was the highlight of my career and that cup final in 2012 was just a brilliant experience. We were unlucky in the [League] cup final the following year [losing 3-2 against St Mirren] but I spent three years there and loved every minute of it.
“I look back on that final in 2012 and think to myself: ‘I can get back there and play at that level again.’ You always believe in your own ability. First and foremost, I just need to get back playing again somewhere and take it from there. I can’t afford to get too ahead of myself.
“I’m just trying to get myself fit again so that I’m ready to start pre-season. Where that’ll be I don’t know. I’m open to anything and I won’t rule out any options. I just want to get back playing regularly again, wherever it is. I’ll look at anything that comes up and I wouldn’t be against playing in the Championship if something came up there.”
Despite the difficulties of recent years, Barr still harbours confidence that he has plenty to offer. Medical experts have given him the all-clear and he is now training by himself at home, waiting on a phonecall. “I just need somebody to have a bit of faith in me and take that chance,” he continued. “You need a bit of luck in this game and I know I wouldn’t let anybody down if I got an opportunity. Sometimes it’s just getting that break, particularly when you’re in a situation like this and you’ve been injured for a long time.
“I want to get that message out that I’m fit and ready. I don’t want people thinking I’m injury-prone or anything like that. I’m pleased I got the all-clear from the doctors there so I can get back to training again. I’m doing some stuff on my own to keep me going but I just want to get back training and playing regularly. That’s the aim at the moment.
“When I did my cruciate, I knew I was looking at a long time out. It was hard to take at the time but these things happen in football. It hasn’t been an easy two years since I left Hearts but I don’t want to sound like a doom and gloom merchant. I’m confident I can get back playing now because I’ve had the all-clear and that’s made all the difference.
“The knee feels fine, everything has healed so there are no problems in that area. I want people to know that I’m fine and I’m ready to get back playing again. It was a big relief to be told the injury was cured. I didn’t have the easiest time last season at County but that’s football and you just get on with it. I was recovering towards the end of the season and it was great to see them stay up. I was also really happy to see Hearts get promoted.
“I’ll wait and see what comes up over the next few weeks and then hopefully I’ll have a decision to make on where I’m going to play. As long as I’m back playing regularly, I’ll be happy.”