He was born in the Yorkshire mining village of Denaby, in the Don valley, and started work down the pit. An injury to his thigh, sustained when a roof in the seam where he was working caved in, there almost cut off his football career before it began. Barker was spotted playing for a local league side before Derby County, on of the top six sides at the time, signed him for £200 in May 1928.
Barker played for the Rams in 327 league games and a further 26 cup matches. He also earned 11 international caps for England, including the infamous Battle of Highbury, in which he was one of the four players in the England side not to come from Arsenal. This was the game between England and Italy that might have been the World Cup final in 1934 had England not withdrawn from FIFA in 1928. As it was, the Italians were defending their position as world champions, and both sides resorted to out and out violence. England won 3-2, and the score on broken bones was about the same.
His football playing career came to an end with the outbreak of World War 2. During the war he served as an Army Physical Training Instructor, but returned to football when hostilities ceased. He alternated periods as manager of Bradford City, Irish club Dundalk, and Derby County with spells working for Rolls Royce and the railway works, before his death from cancer in 1982.
Barker was a central defender, so his primary job was stopping the opposition scoring. He did, though, manage a couple of goals in his career, and if we consider that winning a race is the equivalent achievement, he’s two in front of the equine Jack Barker, who tries for the eight time at Thirsk tonight.
It may be stretching the analogy a bit far to say that his third placed finish last year in a Redcar maiden is the equivalent of an assist, but that’s the highlight of Robin Bastiman’s charge’s achievements to date. Indeed, given that he’s twice finished in last place, and once beaten only one horse home, you would have to say that if substitutions were allowed during the course of a race, Jack Barker would be a likely candidate for an early rub down.