Local Born Heroes - Graham Baker
Thursday, 26th May 2011 14:22
A look at our locally born players in the first of a series
Graham Edgar Baker was born in Southampton on 3rd December 1958 and lived in a house in Merry Oak that backed on to Itchen College, he joined Saints as an apprentice in the summer of 1975 and showed such promise that the club signed him on professional terms on his 18th birthday rather than wait till the end of the season as was usual.
However it would be almost another year before he would make his bow in the first team when on 12th November 1977 he pulled on the famous stripes for the first time for a home game against Blackpool,back then the only televised football was on Match Of the Day or The Big Match on the Sunday and both showed only a few games meaning that at the time out of the football league programme only around a dozen would be recorded for the highlights to be showm Graham was lucky in that the BBC were at the Dell and so the whole country saw him score after only 58 seconds to kick start the 2-0 home win.
But with the plethora of talent available to Lawrie McMenemy although he would reatain his place for the next two games this would be his only first team action of the season as Saints stormed to promotion to the top flight
The following season would see graham start to show the Dell regulars that he was a talent in the making and he made 20 starts plus 2 as sub scoring 5 goals in the process, establishing himself in the side in the second half of the season after the departure of Terry Curran, there are many who would feel thhat if Baker had been in the side at Wembley in the league Cup Final instead of Curran who departed a few days later the result might have been different, but despite coming on as sub in the semi final 2nd leg, Graham couldnt find even a place on the bench at Wembley in the days of only one sub.
1979/80 was another of big strides for Graham with 23 appearances yielding another 4 goals a decent ratio from midfield, but it would be 1980/81 that he would really establish himself as alongside Keegan, Channon et al he played 39 league games out of 42 with (only Nick Holmes managing more) and hitting 8 goals along the way, indeed as Saints started the season brightly, it was keegan getting the headlines but Baker getting the goals and making the side tick.
But like many others before and since as one of the local lads made good and not a big signing he was often underestimated by both the manager and the crowd and in 1981/82 he only played 26 times scoring 4 and you felt that often he was the player in the side only because of injuries elsewhere rather than in on his own merits which to be truthful he deserved.
In the summer of 1982 Man City recognised his talents and with McMenemy needing cash to fund the purchase of Shilton, Graham headed North for £225,000, at Maine Road his first two seasons were good but then he started to pick up injuries meaning that after a decent third season in the following two he made only 9 & 13 league appearances respectively, City were happy to let him return to Saints in the Summer of 1987 on a free transfer.
But he soon got down to business and in his first season back he played 35(1) out of the 42 games scoring 5 times, it sounds a low total but Saints only hit 49 goals and he was third top scorer behind Colin Clarke on 16 and Danny Wallace on 11.
But unfortunately for Graham as he touched 30 a combination of injury and the talent coming through the youth ranks started to take its toll, in 88/89 he played 20(1) with 4 goals.
1989/90 saw Graham struggling to get in the team, in truth injuries werent helping and when you see that in competiton Saints had Barry Horne, Jimmy Case, Glen Cockerill, Matt Le Tissier, not to mention Danny & Ray Wallace after six months in Saints reserves he went to Aldershot on loan in March 1990
In the summer of 1990 Fulham came in for him and he joined the Craven Cottage club, however injury reared its ugly head again and he only managed 10 games for the club in his two year spell, finally retiring and becoming a driving instructor in Cheam in Surrey.
He combined this with a few roles in non league football including a spell as boss of petersfield Town in 1994 before eight years as coach at Carshalton, in 2005 he went to join former team mate Glen Cockerill at Woking and ran their youth set up including two speells as caretaker manager after both Cockerill and his successor were sacked as first team boss.
He was given the position permanently in April 2009 although by then the club were already relegated from the conference, he remained in charge till January of this year when he himself found his services dispensed with by the club.
Graham Baker remains an unsung hero at Saints, 191(8) games in his two spells is a decent total and with 36 goals to his name he had a decent ratio in that department, however like many at every football club it could be said that the crowd appreciattes players signed from elsewhere rather than homegrown talent unless that talent is particularly outstanding.
Photo: Action Images
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