Ex-footballer returns to his roots with new role.

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As part of the PCA’s 2019 Futures Week, Hampshire paceman Keith Barker has spoken to the Association about how he has used his love for football to build towards a second career.

Barker is a former professional footballer, having spent his youth career with Blackburn Rovers before going on to represent a number of different clubs over a four-year period. The 33-year-old even managed one appearance for England U19 in a 1-1 draw with Belgium in February 2005.

Since then, he has reinvented himself as a sporting professional after being talent scouted by ex-England cricket coach David Lloyd, and has gone on to take 397 first-class wickets during spells with Warwickshire and, as of 2019, Hampshire.

The multi-talented Barker hasn’t lost his passion for the beautiful game, though, and has recently used it as inspiration to build towards what he hopes will be a successful second career in football scouting.

“I’ve always enjoyed football and it’s just great to be able to go back into sport and look at things from a different viewpoint – being on the sidelines rather than being a part of the game,” Barker explains.

“My old strength and conditioning coach from Warwickshire, Chris Armstrong, was at Birmingham City and he asked me if I’d ever thought about going into scouting.

“I went to Birmingham to meet the chief scout there and he invited me to a game just to have a chat with me.

“Through a connection at Aston Villa I managed to get some experience there and, before I knew it, I was basically on the books as a voluntary scout at Villa.”

Elaborating on what the role involves on a day-to-day basis, the Manchester-born Barker is excited that the experience takes him back to his roots in the northwest of England. After initially coming through the ranks at Blackburn, the Lancastrian went on to appear for other local clubs such as Rochdale and Northwich Victoria.

“My role is more based on the U18s to U23s age groups across the northwest of England.

“I pick fixtures, watch those teams and if I see any individuals who are worth looking at, then I’ll report back to the club.

“It’s throughout the winter so I’ll be doing it from now until when the cricket season properly kicks in again and I have to go back down to Hampshire. But, even then, I can still try and get to games down that way on the weekend as well.”

Having been involved in all but one of Hampshire’s Specsavers County Championship fixtures last season, taking 37 wickets at 27 runs apiece in his 13 appearances, Barker would be right to believe still has some seasons of professional cricket left in the tank. In that respect, though, the fast bowler is keen not to take his eye off the ball.

“It’s massively important to have second career options outside of cricket. Some players get to the end of their careers and only then start thinking about what they’re going to do.

“It’s best to plan what you can do when you’re a young player, rather than just assuming that the game is going to look after you for the rest of your life. 

“I did my Level 3 coaching when I was 24 – I didn’t just want to do nothing with my winters and wanted to make the most of the opportunities that I had.

“That’s what the PCA are there for. You get the encouragement every year to do a number of different things.

“I was encouraged a lot to pursue the scouting thing and I’ve really enjoyed it – it’s been great so far.”

If you’re a PCA member and are looking to build a second career, find out more about our Personal Development and Welfare Programme or contact your designated Personal Development Manager (PDM).

Keep up-to-date with the week’s activities by following the #PCAFuturesWeek hashtag on all of the PCA’s social media accounts.

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