On this day Arsenal’s centre forward Joe Baker played his last Arsenal game. He played 144 games for Arsenal and scored 93 goals – a terrific goal to game record – before going on to Nottingham Forest on 26 February.
Joe was signed by Billy Wright who brought a problem of his own – a lack of club management experience, and who joined a club with a problem – Arsenal’s huge historic reputation but a lack of trophies stretching back to 1953.
Under Swindin, Arsenal’s previous manager, the seasons had ended with us 3rd, 13th, 11th and 10th. In the cup we had once reached the fifth round, once the fourth, and twice gone out in the third, including on one occasion to Rotherham.
In one sense almost anything would be an improvement – but in another there was clearly no sound base to the squad, and Wright had no base in club management experience. He had been made manager of England’s youth team in 1960, but that was it.
Swindin’s final season first team outfit was
Kelsey, Magill, McCullough, Brown, Sneddon, Neill, McCloud, Eastham, Charles, Henderson, Skirton, with Petts, Griffiths and Strong coming in later in the season.
Wright started with
McKechnie, Magill, McCullough, Brown, Neill, Sneddon, Armstrong, Strong, Baker, Bramwell, Skirton.
Joe Baker was the big name summer signing, at centre forward, despite being only 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was born in 1940 and went through some junior Scottish clubs before playing for Hibernian and was their top scorer for four years getting 102 goals in just 117 league games.
The Hibs board apparently refused to up his weekly wage from £12 to £17 and so sold him to Torino for £75k. However Joe was involved in a serious car crash, while there, and Joe, like other Britains of the era who tried playing outside the UK did not fare well.
He then became Arsenal’s record signing in July 1962 and made his début on 18 August 1962 in the opening league game of the season away to the newly promoted Leyton Orient. I remember it well – I was there with my dad. (I also remember being at the match where he had a fist fight with Ron Yeates of Liverpool, and winning. Both were sent off – Joe said in the press after that he had never been sent off before in his life – although there was another report of him throwing a journalist into a canal while in Italy.)
He was the top scorer for three of his four years with us, and got 100 goals in 156 games, playing alongside Geoff Strong who had come up through the youth and reserves teams. Near the end of his career Wright sold Baker to Nottingham Forest for £65k – after which he moved on to Sunderland before going to Hibs again, and then Raith.
Baker retired in 1974, having scored 301 league goals in 507 games. He also won eight caps for England (he was born in Liverpool – and was that rarity – a man who plays for England without having played for an English club).
After playing, Joe Baker was manager of Albion Rovers – which I think was probably a part time position. He ran a pub and worked for Hibs but died tragically young at 63 while playing in a golf tournament.