Joe Baker playing for Torino in 1961–62
|Full name||Joseph Henry Baker|
|Date of birth||17 July 1940|
|Place of birth||Woolton, Liverpool, England|
|Date of death||6 October 2003(aged 63)|
|Place of death||Wishaw, Scotland|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
|Playing position||Centre forward|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Joseph Henry "Joe" Baker (17 July 1940 – 6 October 2003) was an England international footballer. Born in Woolton in Liverpool, England, he spent virtually his entire childhood growing up in Motherwell, Scotland. He is notable for being the first player to have played for England without having previously played in the English football league system, and for scoring over 100 goals in both the English and Scottish leagues. His brother Gerry Baker was also a professional footballer.
Joe Baker's parents were Scottish. His father was a sailor and when living in New York, Joe's elder brother, Gerry, was born in 1938. After the outbreak of war the family moved to Liverpool where Joe was born in Woolton in 1940. Only six weeks after the birth the family moved back to Scotland where Baker spent the rest of his childhood.
His elder brother Gerry was also an international footballer.
A centre forward, Baker spent a month on trial with Chelsea as a youngster, but was not signed. He signed professional terms with Hibernian after playing junior football for Coltness United and Armadale Thistle. In his first season with Hibs, the 17-year-old Baker scored all four goals in Hibs' 4–3 victory over city rivals Hearts in the quarter-final of the 1958 Scottish Cup. Baker played in the 1958 Scottish Cup Final, which Hibs lost 1–0 to Clyde. He also scored nine goals in a Scottish Cup tie against Peebles Rovers. Baker was Hibs' top goalscorer for four consecutive seasons, scoring a club record 42 goals in 33 league games during the 1959–60 season. In all he scored 102 goals in just 117 league games, and 159 goals in all competitions for the Edinburgh club
Gerry Baker signed for Hibernian from Manchester City not long after Joe had left Hibs.
In 1961, Baker was transferred to Torino for £75,000, after the Hibs board refused to give him a £5 wage increase from his existing wage of £12 a week. Despite scoring a winning goal in a Turin derby match against Juventus, his time at the Italian club was short and almost ended in tragedy. Baker was involved in a serious car crash, which meant that he needed life-saving surgery and spent over a month on a drip feed. It was a generally unhappy spell as Baker did not like the press intrusion, which meant that he and teammate Denis Law spent most of their time in their Turin apartment.
Baker recovered from his injuries and he returned to the UK in July 1962, joining Billy Wright's Arsenal for a club record fee of £70,000. He made his debut against Leyton Orient on 18 August 1962, and in all spent four seasons with the Gunners. For three out of those four seasons (1962–63, 1964–65 and 1965–66) he was the club's top scorer; in total he scored 100 goals in 156 games in all competitions, making him one of the club's most prolific goalscorers of all time.
His pace and acceleration made him a highly effective and dynamic attacker, and he was equally adept with his feet and his head, despite his lack of height. With Geoff Strong he formed one of Arsenal's most prolific striking partnerships, but Arsenal's defence could not match the quality of their attack, which meant they were unable to finish above 7th in the league during his time at the club.
After a disappointing 1965–66 season, Wright sold Baker to Nottingham Forest for £65,000. Baker had a successful 1966/67 at Forest, as the club finished runners-up in the top division to the following season's European Cup Winners, Matt Busby's Manchester United who included Baker's ex Torino team mate, Denis Law. Behind Forest in third place were Tottenham Hotspur who brought Forest's FA Cup run to an end at the semi finals.
After three years at Forest, Baker scored 41 goals in 118 league games.
Sunderland, return to Hibs and Raith Rovers
Baker returned to Hibernian for a second time in 1971 and scored 12 goals in 30 appearances. He moved to Raith Rovers in 1972. He retired in 1974, having in all scored 301 league goals in 507 games.
Baker's talents meant that he was selected by the Scottish Schools team, but his birthplace made him only eligible to play for England under the rules of the time; "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."
He made his England debut against Northern Ireland in 1959, which made him the first player to be capped for England while playing for a club outside the English football league system. It also meant that he was the first player to play for England without having ever played for an English club. Owen Hargreaves is the only other player to have done this.
Baker won eight caps for the senior England side, five while he was playing for Hibs and three while with Arsenal. These later caps were won when he earned a brief recall to the England side in 1965. Despite scoring in a 2–0 win over Spain, Baker didn't make the squad for the 1966 FIFA World Cup.
Baker's brother Gerry matched Joe by not playing for Scotland – instead playing for the country of his birth, the USA, while on the books of Coventry City.
Managerial career and later life
Baker later became Albion Rovers manager on two occasions, but never pursued a full coaching career, instead running a pub and working for Hibernian's hospitality service. He died at the age of 63, after suffering a heart attack during a charity golf tournament, dying in Wishaw General Hospital soon after.
- Joe Baker: Swashbuckling centre-forward, The Independent, 8 October 2003.
- "Sat 1 Mar 1958 Scottish Cup Hearts 3 Hibernian 4". London Hearts.
- Glanville, Brian. Joe Baker: Scottish footballer who played for England, The Guardian, 8 October 2003.
- Ask Albert – Number 28, BBC Sport, 16 August 2001.
- Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.
- Jeffrey, Jim (2005). The Men Who Made Hibernian F.C. since 1946. Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7524-3091-2.
- Joe Baker England profile at Englandstats
- Profile at Neil Brown's statistics database
- Article on Joe Baker