Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more exciting for the guy.
Not content with scooping the big prizes at the club’s official awards dinner over the weekend, it’s my pleasure to announce that the few of you who read this blog have echoed those sentiments and chosen captain Carl Baker as your player of the season. Hip hip hooray, etc.
It was a close-run thing, mind you. Goalscoring extraordinaire David McGoldrick (whose existence was actually acknowledged in this vote), gave Baker a jolly good run for his money with 35% of you feeling Goldie’d earned the award. Joe Murphy also came in 3rd with a respectable sweep of 15%.
But it Mr Baker who stormed to the finishing line, eventually seeing off the challenge with a whopping 40% of your votes.
I think it’s fair to say that his individual achievements this year surpassed the expectations of even his staunchest supporters. 15 goals from midfield – many of them crucial (at the time) – was a truly impressive haul. In what will go down yet another supremely despicable season, we at least have some irrepressible memories, and can thank Carl Baker for his contribution to those.
And with that in mind. Let’s take a look at his best bits…
vs Birmingham City
Who can forget the emergence of Robot Carl Baker in that manic performance against Birmingham? The club was in turmoil (naturally), and having taken a right old battering in the opening exchanges of the game, our chances of coming out of it with anything other than a spanking were seemingly miniscule…
Step up Mr Baker.
He’d had a rough start to the campaign, following on from a poor season during our relegation year, leaving his place in the team firmly under the spotlight. We’d all figured out by that point that you get varying levels of ability with Baker, spanning not only different matches, but also different periods throughout the same match. His performances are regularly littered with inconsistency, but the unrelenting level of desire and quality he was able to bring to the Birmingham game was him at his absolute best.
There was no stopping him. He’s legs wriggled like I’d never seen before. He tore the Brum defence apart as a matter of course, and capped such an inspired display with the goal which saw us snatch victory in extra time.
It may have been round two of the Carling Cup, but this didn’t matter to me. I took that display as an indication; an indication of what this man was really capable if he put his mind to it. He’d hit a level we’d never seen from him before, and it felt exciting. Not because I suddenly expected it every game – that’s unrealistic for a league one player. What it did do however was set a bar – a level of quality which we never thought feasible from him, and gave us and him a clearer benchmark for what his underlying ability was actually capable of.
Maybe it set the tone for our expectations of Carl for the rest of the season, and he seemed to struggle with the pressure in the weeks that followed that game. But it’s performances like that which allow players a little more leeway with the fans. It meant we no longer saw Carl Baker as a player who had a few tricks and was only really capable of decent cameos. He was suddenly Carl Baker; the man who destroyed Birmingham, and should be able to play like that again. You cling on to little things like that.
With 15 goals, there’s certainly plenty of choice for this one. Fortunately my decision is made somewhat easier by the amount of goals he’s also managed to scuff or trickle through the hands of the seemingly endless stream of woeful League One goalkeepers.
His free-kick taking has been a revelation, and his reliability when in 20 yards range is something to behold. But it’s that goal with his left-foot against Morecambe which is my pick of the bunch. It had some of the obligatory Baker wriggle to find him a yard, but I don’t think anyone really expected him to slam it home in such a ruthless fashion. It was a stunning strike, briefly illuminating what was a ruddy awful game of football.
Preston. Preston. Preston. This match plays on a loop in my mind when I’m not thinking about anything else. It’s basically become the BBC test card for my brain.
This season we’ve had our fair share of excitement in the dying embers of games, and none more so than those final 120 seconds of the JPT contest against winter rivals Preston North End. I really thought we were done for in that game. Most people in the ground thought we’d had it.
Enter Jordan Clarke with a touch as sparkly as those diamond-studded jackets of his, teeing up his captain Carl Baker to wallop the ball as hard as he could through Simonsen’s legs, sending himself and every member of the Sky Blue Army into a collective spasm of intense delirium.
Obviously that moment gets overshadowed by what happened 60 seconds later as Leon Clarke fired such an unforgettable winner. But let’s face it – we all thought we were going out, and Baker was the catalyst for saving us. Not only did he score the vital equalising goal when so many players have been known to bottle similar opportunities, but don’t forget he also slammed in the wibbly-wobbly shot which Simonsen parried prior to the winner. Forget any analysis of his all-round performance in that game. It’s irrelevant. He fixed whatever had afflicted him for the previous 90 minutes, and was integral to dragging us through.
So in conclusion – well done on all your goals and stuff Carl, you flexible swine.
Nobody has a clue what’s going to happen from this point onwards, and it’s all pretty scary for us. But amongst the disappointment, you did plenty of good last year and are worthy of this truly auspicious accolade.
If I had the money to make you a trophy I would.