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Premier soccer for cricket ace

KEITH Barker has swapped scoring runs for scoring goals after signing up for Blackburn Rovers.

KEITH Barker has swapped scoring runs for scoring goals after signing up for Blackburn Rovers.

The Enfield ace, who played cricket for England Under-15s last season, had to make a tough decision after coming through the ranks at the Ewood Academy as he has also been offered a contract by Lancashire Cricket Club.

However, the 16-year-old striker opted for football after starring in the Academy side and has now signed a three-year contract at Rovers.

Brother Gary who is captain at current Lancashire League table-toppers Enfield, joked: "I think he thought football would be more glamorous!

"As a cricket club, though, we are disappointed as I am sure he would have broken my club record for runs as an amateur this season and could have played a big part as we try to win the title.He had a big future in cricket, but he has chosen football and, as his brother, I am very proud of him."

Gary holds the Dill Hall Lane battling record with 897 runs in 1994 and he was sure his left-handed batsman brother would have smashed this - and gone on to be a big hit in the English cricketing world.

Keith broke the county record for the highest score as a junior when he chalked up 198 aged just 13 - smashing John Crawley's total of 168. And he has continued to star for the Red Rose county.

However, the 6ft 2in talent has also proved his prowess on the football field - and cricket has lost out.

"He loves his sport, the whole family does," admitted his cricketing dad Keith senior who was the West Indian pro for Enfield and Rishton in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We let him make his choice. He loves to play cricket and many felt he could go all the way to Test level - he was singled out as one of the best young players in the county. But we had to let him make his decision and he chose football."

Keith, who went to Moorhead High School, is still playing for Enfield and has helped them to the top of the Lancashire League. "He can play a few more matches but then he will have to stop as he will start training properly at Brockhall in July," said the Enfield skipper. "He has been allowed to play for us but hasn't to tire himself out but these few games are keeping him fit and occupied.

"It is a shame that cricket has missed out but there is more money in football. And he can always go back to cricket in three years if it doesn't work out at Blackburn."

Keith junior will still have some part to play though when he takes part in Enfield's top-of-the-table clash at Nelson tomorrow.


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