Just as Bruce Rioch will always be remembered by newer Arsenal fans as the man who brought Dennis Bergkamp to Highbury, just in time for the Wenger revolution. So older fans will smile at the memory of our Scottish pocket battleship Joe Baker who was Billy Wright’s claim to fame.
Billy a gentleman of a manager, struggled in the hurly burly of running so large a club as Arsenal and was never able to build a defence to match the superb attack he created, by buying Joe from Italian side Torino to play as a twin centre forward alongside his strike partner Geoff Strong,(later sold to Shankly’s all conquering Liverpool) and just in front of the elegant master passer George Eastham, who has his own place in the history books as the first ever £100 a week footballer.
These three terrorised defences and scored for fun, with Joe the top marksman for all four years he was with the club, scoring exactly 100 goals in 156 matches between 1962/66
Joe was an England player with a difference, the owner of the broadest Scottish accent ever heard in an England dressing room. Born in Liverpool of Scottish parents at a time when the only thing that counted was where you were born, he wastherefore English and for England he played. Truth to tell he hated it because he was a Scot at heart. But still ever the professional Scored 3 goals in eight appearances
5’8” tall he was fast, courageous, a tigerish tackler with an exquisite touch and a fine passer of the ball, who finished equally well with either foot and would go in where it hurts to head home with no fear.
His courage was legendary likewise his fiery temper as when on a cold and filthy day on a quagmire of a Pitch he was dumped in the mud by 6’2” Ron “Rowdy” Yeats the Liverpool Centre back, picking himself up complete with a muddy divot, Joe threw it at Yeats filling his ear and followed that up with a smack from a clenched fist, he didn’t wait for the referee but walked off for an early bath.
The nearest to him in recent years must be Ian Wright, his wicked humour and all round ability endeared him to the fans and his four years at Highbury was never long enough as he left at 25 and scored plenty of goals for Nottingham Forest, Sunderland and then back to Scotland to play and briefly manage.
Joe died on the golf course in 2003.