Former Coventry City striker Gerry Baker who passed away in August didn't live to see the publication of a book telling the story of his and his brother Joe's footballing career. The book The Fabulous Baker Boys Is an incredible story of two brothers who scored more than 500 goals between them and donned international jerseys for England & the United States. Despite being brought up in Scotland and having broad Scots accents they never had the chance to play for the country they felt was their own.
I wrote about Gerry's career in his obituary at the time of his death and how, by virtue of being born in the USA he became the first top-flight European footballer to represent the States - this was before the international qualifications changed in the 1980s allowing players to qualify by virtue of parents & grandparents places of birth. Joe's story is equally as fascinating - he was born in Liverpool and aged 19, became the first man to play for England having never played in the Football League. His goal scoring feats at Hibernian saw him selected to play alongside greats such as Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton & Johnny Haynes. Between 1959 & 1966 Joe won eight full caps & but for the emergence of a young striker called Geoff Hurst months before the 1966 World Cup would have almost certainly been in Alf Ramsey's squad for the tournament. There are humorous stories of Joe, with his broad Scots accent, turning up for international duty.
Young Joe's scoring & international performances had the top English clubs chasing his signature but with the maximum wage still in force, the lure of the Italian lire was too great & Joe signed for Torino, around the same time as Denis Law joined them. The book tells how Joe, who was on £12 at Hibs was given an unbelievable £12,000 signing on fee. Joe & Denis' time in Turin was a disaster on the pitch and culminated in a serious car crash which left Joe hospitalised.
Once recovered he returned to the UK & signed for Arsenal (the maximum wage had been removed in the meantime) and scored goals for fun for the Gunners & later Nottingham Forest before winding his career down at Sunderland and back in Scotland with Hibs. The Forest side of 1966-67 was outstanding , finishing second in the league & but for a bad injury sustained by Joe in the FA Cup sixth round against Everton, may have won the FA Cup. I remember seeing Joe play for Forest against Coventry at the City Ground the following season, City's first in Division One, on the night George Curtis broke his leg. A battling Sky Blues team led three times, with substitute Bobby Gould scoring twice, in a thrilling 3-3 draw & Joe netted one of the Forest goals. A week later in the return game at Highfield Road Joe ripped City's makeshift defence apart scoring twice in a 3-1 win.
Although Gerry only spent a couple of years at Coventry near the end of his career & his time at Highfield Road is only briefly covered in the well-researched book, I would still recommend the book as an excellent read for all football fans. The author, Tom Maxwell a Scottish football historian, has worked with the Baker family including Gerry, before his death, and gives a great insight into British football in the 1950s & 60s, an era when footballers were paid modest wages and the average football fan could relate to them, something it's not possible to say these days.
Ian Harris wrote to me recently regarding the largest away followings Coventry City have had. Until recent seasons there have been no official figures for the number of away fans at games so any figures I quote are estimates that were quoted in the Coventry Telegraph at the time, some which may have been based on ticket sales for all-ticket games. The largest number of City fans at an away game has to be the estimated 50,000 who travelled to Wembley Stadium in August 1987 for the Charity Shield game versus Everton. During the previous season's FA Cup run there were approximately 25,000 tickets sold by the club to City fans for the final, but it's likely that a good few more obtained tickets elsewhere. There were 27,500 at the semi final v Leeds at Hillsborough and 15,000 at the sixth round tie at Hillsborough. Other large followings include the FA Cup tie at Villa Park in 1965 (20,000), a league game at the same venue in 1937 (20,000 in a crowd of 68,000), 15,000 at Molineux in 1966 and 14,000 at the same ground for the FA Cup tie in 1973. Since 1987 the largest City away following is probably the estimated 11,000 who travelled to Old Trafford for the League Cup game in 2007. Can anyone remember any other big away followings?
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