Aston Villa hand Hampshire signing Keith Barker off-season challenge
New Hampshire signing Keith Barker spent his free time over the winter in a different way than most cricketers.
The former footballer revealed he completed work experience in a recruiting and scouting role at Championship outfit Aston Villa.
All-rounder Barker was a key part of Warwickshire’s County Championship division two title win last term and a move to the Ageas Bowl followed on the back of that.
But instead of enjoying some time to himself in the close season, the 32-year-old decided to revisit his football background.
Barker signed professional deals with Blackburn and Rochdale during a brief playing career, as well as representing England at age group level.
However he decided on going back to cricket, spending nine years with Warwickshire prior to the winter move to Hampshire.
But Barker admitted he is open to returning to football in some capacity after his retirement.
And that was a key reason behind his decision to spend time working at Aston Villa over the winter.
He said: ‘It’s been weird being involved in cricket, moving to football and coming back to cricket.
‘But I’m also looking at a future back in football.
‘I have been doing some football recruiting and scouting work for Aston Villa during the winter.
‘That was something that has kept me occupied along with training.
‘It was more with the age group teams, working with the under-11 through to under-16 age groups.
‘It was just a bit of work experience for me to do.
‘I had a great time and I’m hoping to do some more next winter.
‘You’re told by the PCA that you’ve got to keep your options open.
‘Rather than just take every winter as a bit of time off, you’ve got to keep yourself busy.
‘It’s about getting yourself out there and doing different things so it’s something I’m interested in doing.
‘It’s been discussed already (about going to back to Aston Villa).
‘If there’s a time where we’ve got some down time during the season, I’d like to do it.
For now Barker’s focus is on making an impact as Hampshire start their bid for silverware on three fronts against Essex in the County Championship on Friday.
And the all-rounder is delighted to have made the move down south.
He added: ‘It’s great to be at a very successful club.
‘I’ve really enjoyed my time getting to know the lads and I’ve had a good winter so far.
‘I’m looking forward to the season now.’