Tribute to Joe Baker – Another prolific Arsenal legend

ANOTHER ARSENAL LEGEND WHO GRACED THE ARSENAL SHIRT – JOSEPH HENRY BAKER:

BORN: 17TH JULY 1940

DIED: 6TH OCTOBER 2003

POSITION: CENTRE FORWARD

CAREER DETAILS:

YOUTH LEVEL:
1956-1957 – HIBERNIAN

SENIOR LEVEL IN DOMESTIC LEAGUE ONLY:
1957-1961 – HIBERNIAN 117 APPEARANCES / 102 GOALS
1961-1962 – TORINO…..19 APPEARANCES /.. 7 GOALS
1962-1966 – ARSENAL… 144 APPEARANCES /.. 93 GOALS

NATIONAL TEAM STATS:
1958-1963 ENGLAND UNDER 23…6 APPEARANCES / 4 GOALS
1959-1966 ENGLAND SENIORS….8 APPEARANCES / 3 GOALS

TEAMS MANAGED:
1981-1981 ALBION ROVERS
1984-1985 ALBION ROVERS

Joe Baker was close to signing for Chelsea as a youngster, spending a month at the club on trial, but was not offered a contract.

Travelling north, he resurrected his young career by signing for Hibernian – this followed local football with Coltness United and then Hibs sent him to another junior club Armadale Thistle.

His 117 appearances with 103 goals were mighty impressive, but the Hibs board decided not to increase his salary demands from £12 a week to £17 a week, so he was transferred to Torino for £75,000.

it was unusual for British players to go abroad and be successful and this continued with Joe, despite him becoming a hero by scoring the winning goal in the Turin derby game with Juventus.

He played alongside Denis Law, who actually did have a successful time, but neither player got used to the paparazzi and spent most of their free time in their Turin apartment.

He was involved in a serious car crash with Denis Law, that saw Joe fighting for his life, needing lifesaving surgery and being on a drip feed for over a month.

After recovering from his injuries and proving his fitness, Billy Wright decided to break The Arsenal club record and signed the 22-year-old Joe Baker for £70,000 in July 1962 and he made his debut on the 18th August that year, against Leyton Orient.

During his four year stay at the Gunners, Joe was the club’s top goalscorer in 1962/63, 1964/65 and 196/66.

His total number of games at The Arsenal amounted to 156 with an amazing goal record of 100, putting him amongst our most successful centre forwards of all time and he formed a very successful partnership alongside Geoff Strong.

Joe was not a tall player, standing at 5ft and 7inches, but his speed and acceleration left many a defender marking fresh air.

He could use both feet with equal efficiency and, despite that height disadvantage, could score great goals with his head as well.

Joe was also not to be intimidated by anyone and I attended a home FA cup game against Liverpool, when he retaliated after being pushed and pulled at a corner being taken at the North Bank.

He delivered the perfect uppercut to the Liverpool defender Ron Yeats who went down poleaxed. Both players were sent off and to see a 5ft- 7inch player arguing with a 6ft- 2inch was hilarious to say the least.

Although Joe and Geoff formed a potent attack, it was the defence at the time, that saw us struggling and during his four years, we never finished above 7th in the league and Billy Wright decided to sell him to Nottingham Forest for £65,000, a loss of just £5,000 after such a successful personal time at our club.

Joe played his last game for The Arsenal on the 12th February 1966 in a friendly match before his move to the Midlands.

His international career was one of controversy with regard to what country he should represent.

His birthplace meant he was only eligible to play for England, with Joe saying “I was the first Scottish League player to play for England and it was a hard thing to take, because I was a Scot as far as I was concerned.”

One of the more light-hearted quips that came from this surprise England call up was reportedly made by a policeman who was checking why a Scotsman was wanting to report to the hotel where the England squad were staying. When Joe produced his photograph in the paper, the policeman said “A Jock playing for England. Surely, we ain’t that bad, are we?”

Joe scored a great goal against Spain before the 1966 World cup, but Sir Alf Ramsey decided to ignore him, and he wasn’t even in the original squad.

It is worth remembering that nineteen Arsenal players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals and Joe Baker sits at number 6 for the number of games taken to record that statistic.

As a reference, he got there quicker than Thierry Henry and a certain van Persie.

In all, Joe Baker scored a total of 372 goals in his senior career, following 615 game appearances and remains one of the most prolific strikers in British football over the last six decades.

It seems an injustice that Joe Baker never won any top honours, especially at The Arsenal. He would have been a great asset to any of our more successful squads, but it was during the time of Billy Wright and we all know that in those day, The Arsenal was not a successful force in footballing terms.

Once again, it was an honour to watch such a “great little man” score such wonderful goals for our club – rest in peace you bonny Scotsman, and Joe, thanks for the memories.

ken1945

Thanks to Wikipedia, Dan Cancian of “thesefootballtimes.co” and “dailycannon.com” for most of the stats in this article.

24 Comments

  1. Ingleby says:

    Fantastic player. One of the very best I’ve seen in almost 60 years of watching.

    And we replaced him with Bobby Gould – what a joke!

    A rapier replaced by a blunt instrument.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Another great player virtually ignored by England selectors, and they wonder why international results are so few and far between.

    2. Stephen Peter Thomas Reimer says:

      Bobby Gould joined Arsenal two years later in January 1968 I was there

    3. jon fox says:

      INGLEBY, not true! It was Radford really who replaced Baker as our main striker and Gould came in a while later on, as I remember it! I think there was a two year gap between Baker leaving and Gould coming, unless memory deceives me, which is possible l can admit But I don’t think so anyway. GOULD SCORED THE EQUALISER IN THE LEAGUE CUP FINAL DEFEAT TO SWINDON IN ’68. JOE BAKER left in ’66 as i remember.
      I do agree there was no comparison between the sublime BAKER and the one paced tryer in Gould.

  2. Phil says:

    Ken- yet again PAL. Thank you.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      I add my thanks to Phil’s, ken.

  3. ken1945 says:

    I love doing these reviews gents, because I am learning something new with each article – thanks for the support you give.
    I was amazed at the small response regarding Ray Kennedy however and I would suggest he is the player with the most trophies who ever played for us.

    1. Phil says:

      Don’t forget Ken, being that much older than most on this site you will obviously have more memory of these players, while the majority will likely only know of them by reputation.
      For all who were at WHL on THAT NIGHT, we will never forget Ray Kennedy even if that goal was the only one he ever scored for the Club.
      Regards Joe Baker, he for me was my very first Idol. He always seemed to score whenever he played and as a young boy you never forget those players. A bit like Ian Ure but for completely different reasons. How useless was he?

  4. jon fox says:

    Another good read Ken! And Phil makes an important and true point about only we oldies remembering these in the flesh. Which sadly tells me how huge a difference there is beween when we oldies were kids and todays youngsters. I had a passion at even 7 or 8 to know all about players from way before I was born, even from before the great thirties. Plus old books(not enough actually and mainly old progs. And Grandpa had seen them all and delighted in telling me. I used to be in raptures too. Just can’t imagine kids today being interested, generally speaking. Sigh!

    1. ken1945 says:

      I believe it’s all about “having it now” Jon – everything has to be immediate in today’s society.

      I’m amazed at the items on wedding lists these days – we were luck to get towels, kettles or bed linen.

      I would think I’ve probably seen my club lose nearly as many games as they have won over the 60 odd years, especially in those early days – although it hurt, the desire to follow The Arsenal never left me and I believe that all us oldies feel the same.

      One of the biggest problems with Arsene Wenger’s wonder years, was that we top dogs, we were the best around and thought it would go on forever – it hasn’t and, like most clubs, we had to live through the lean years again – I firmly believe Mikel Arteta will bring the glory days back, meanwhile we can bask in the glory of some wonderful players who graced the shirt, while the younger fans can discuss who we might be signing next…that’s life.

      I hope Kenny gets to read this, as Joe was his idol in those days, I believe.

      My next features George Eastham and what a story his life in football was!! Phil keeps throwing in names like Ian Ure and I think…yes, that would be a good subject and so it goes on.

      1. Phil says:

        Yeah Ken-and if you are concerned about the response numbers, just keep slipping Mesut Ozil in there now and again. That will sort it

      2. Kenny Rolfe says:

        He certainly was Ken. As a 12 year old the excitement the Joe Baker signing has only ever been eclipsed by the signing of Dennis Bergkamp. I’d already seen enough of Joe playing for England to know how good he was and the fact that he was held back the lump Bobby Smith for more England caps still annoys me to this day. I remember being at school and waiting all day for the selection with Ramsey dwelling whether to play Baker or Smith and in the end chose Smith, I couldn’t believe it. The Ron Yeats episode was one of my best Highbury memories. I know it shouldn’t be because it involved violence but the way Yeats bullied players in those days was there for everyone to see. He kicked Joe so many times during that cup tie that in the end Joe had to react. Yeats obviously never knew of Joe’s reputation. There was a story from Italy when three young Italians started on Denis Law in a night club, suddenly Joe turned up, knocked the biggest one out and the other two run away. Standing only 5′ 7″, a typical Scot because although Joe played for England that’s what he was, with a fearsome reputation. That particular against Liverpool Yeats kicked Baker just once to much, so big was Yeats that Joe had to literally jump to hit him with a right hook. The crowd couldn’t believe it, there was a hush and then like a giant oak tree, Yeats began to fall, spark out, he never messed with Joe again. I was lucky enough to meet as can adult, During the Centenary game in 1986 I was sitting in the East Stand with a friend and his 6 year old son when he nudged me and said”you’ll never believe who’s sitting behind us” as I turned it was Joe Baker. I picked up my friends young son, held him up in front of Joe and said “see this man, he’s Arsenal greates ever Centre Forward” with that I got s lovely snile from joe, with I then said “have you anything of him lately Joe” In his broad Scottish accent he said” who’s that” I said “Ronny Yeats” with that we all burst out laughing. Wonderful memory’s, RIP Joe Baker.

        1. Phil says:

          Kenny- how fortunate to have met the Great Man a# you did. And hoe typical of then, compared to these days, that ex players sat with the Supporters and thought nothing of it. Now it’s a luxury Corporate Box or nothing.

        2. ken1945 says:

          Great story Kenny, us oldies always lament the interaction with the players, something that, sadly, never happens today.

          Watching Ronnie go down was one thing, but the reaction from the other liverpool players was just as funny.

          They couldn’t believe what had just happened and, to be honest, most of the fans didn’t either.

          Whereas Joe would thrive in today’s game, the likes of Ron Yeates, Peter Storey, Nobbie Stiles, Billy Bremner and Dave Mackay (great footballer mind you was Dave)would be back in the dressing room well before half time.

          1. Kenny Rolfe says:

            Definitely Ken, Joe had electric pace and would be perfectly suited to today’s game, however the likes of carthorse Bobby Smith wouldn’t have had chance in the modern game. That’s what I see in Joe Baker, he was my kind of player, , left foot right foot, good in the air, quick, a modern footballer. I hated players like Smith, Lofthouse. Dawson who all came from an era of barging the goalkeeper in the goal, kicking their way through a game. Fortunately a dying breed. Ramsey liked Smith mind you, probably more to do with his Tottenham connections.

        3. Johnno says:

          Alright Rolfey, are you one of Sheffield`s`Rockin Berries?

          1. Kenny Rolfe says:

            The Rockin’ Berries were a 60’s band from Birmingham, other than that I don’t know what you’re talking about

          2. Johnno says:

            Must have the wrong geezer, the bloke I`m thinking about was on ITV the other day doing a lap of honour with the players after the 79 Cup Final.

  5. Kenny Rolfe says:

    Absolutely Phil, however it was the Centenary Celebrations in 1986 and many ex players over the previous 50 years or so were invited, I was just lucky to have the great man behind. Even as a young autograph collector I’d met him on previous occasions and always found him charming and accommodating even as a kid but meeting him as an adult obviously gives you different perspective. Also like to add , I’ve read many books about Joe and never have I heard a bad word said about him. While I’m here just watching my first live game in months, A Bunderslige game featuring Uhion Berlin and Bayern Munich and I must say enjoyed it. Commitment was there and must say the refereeing was a pleasure to watch without the crowd noise influencing any decisions which will be a massive advantage to us and a disadvantage to the likes of Liverpool. How refreshing, wondering how the inept English officials will react without the crowds telling them when to blow the whistle

    1. Kenny Rolfe says:

      You got me Johnno, who is it

      1. Johnno says:

        One of the `Rockin Berries, there was only 3 of us my old son. Scully was the other one, hahaha. Thought you`d like reading about Joe Baker, always your hero wasn’t he? Always preferred Danny Clapton myself.

  6. Kenny Rolfe says:

    Hello mate how are you? been trying to find you on Facebook, put a few feelers about but no success. I know, never thought I’d ever go near this social media, someone got me at it suddenly I was addicted Funny you should say that about Danny Clapton done an article about him on FB recently, just never quite done it for me, bags of potential Was at a party few years ago with Dinny (Dennis) and Les his other brother managed me when I played for Haringay. You still living up North, love to get in touch, have a drink, anyway soon as we get started again come down for a game. I’m in touch with Scully on FB, not too often,now an again.. Sure you know about Hubble, big loss mate, done all our heads in. Get in touch with Pat at admin, I’ll give him my phone number and we can get in touch, be lovely to see you and John again. Stay safe mate , love to the family.
    PS cut it out the lap of honour the other day, don’t matter ha ha

    1. Johnno says:

      Sad old news about Hubble, Jonah as well. I was away when Bob went, ++++g gutted. Coming to us all soon my old son, I reckon you`ll be next. You`ll go before me that’s for sure.
      You`re right about Clapton, never really done it for us. I aint on all that facebook and twitter, I`m no good on this social media. I can just about get on NewsNow.
      Still up North. Havent been to that new ground and got no intention of going either. Don’t recognise the fanbase over there these days. I`ve been to the last few Cup Finals though (always was a glory hunter). I reckon Arteta will do alright if he gets a bit of time and a few quid to spend so next time we get to a final I`ll get in touch and have a meet for a few beers. My daughter`s on FB, I`ll tell her to look you up.
      Anyway Kenny mate, you take care of yourself.
      P.S Cant believe you forgot about the old Rockin Berries and I`ve still got that Manure Cup Final on tape. Lap of honour and everything. You had a dodgy white jacket on if memory serves me right.

  7. Kenny Rolfe says:

    Jonah and Bob Jones you talking about, that’s a shame , had no idea, lost touch mate, long time.ago. You reckon me next, no chance, I keep fit, sill work out 4 or 5 times a week, I ain’t changed, ha ha. I’m the same as you with all that social media until I went on it, still ain’t 100% but it’s easy, Come down to the Emirates, I’ll get you a ticket, if I can’t you can have mine, best seat in the ground, behind the camera but you’re right about the fanbase, totally different from the old days, Arsenal’s fault they priced all the working class kids out the game, that started at Highbury in the last few years we were there. I never met your daughter, definitely tell her to get in touch. Anyway I’ve sent Pat at Admin my email and phone number to give to you. By the way dressed in all dodgy Beige that Cup Final ha ha. Another thing Rockin’ Berries, you sure, where did that come from ha ha, contact me soon John and you take care also, really good to hear from you.

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