Billy Wright’s players at Arsenal: Joe Baker

By Tony Attwood

Billy Wright came with two problems – a lack of club management experience, and the joining of a club of national renown, who had been going through a bad patch.

Under Swindin, 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 to Rotherham.

In one sense almost anything would be an improvement – but in another there was clearly no sound base to the squad.

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 summer signing (stupidly left out of my summary article where I tried to list the main players Wright brought in).

Joe was a 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 who tried playing outside the UK did not fare well.

He was 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.

Arsenal History

4 Replies to “Billy Wright’s players at Arsenal: Joe Baker”

  1. Thank you for another intresting and informative review. I think it sad that Billy Wright had a poor time as manager as he inheritied and brought to the club some great players. The potential to bring a trophy to Arsenal was there, but it was never fulfulled. Sad, very sad.

  2. I remember the Yates incident very well.
    Joe knocked him out and the funny thing was he had to make the punch an uppercut as he was so much smaller than the Liverpool man.
    Joe was a really hard working player and he deserved to wear the famous Arsenal shirt.
    As far as Billy Wrights time as manager is concerned, it was very frustrating.
    We were pretty average and I wonder how the so called Arsenal supporters of today who see winning a trophy as the be all and end all would have reacted?

  3. Taking up Kenlo’s last question. I wonder how fans of the thirties would have reacted to the Billy Wright years?

  4. I still have vivid memories of Joe Baker. What a fantastic centre forward … One of the true greats of his day without a doubt. What surprised me was how he was ignored by England. I was also there when he and big Yeates had the punch up. Joe had gone round him and had a clear run on goal with just the keeper to beat. He was just over the centre circle as I recall when Yeates hauled him back. Joe landed an uppercut on the Liverpool player and both got their marching orders. Sending offs were very rare in those days, unlike today, as it was viewed as a major disgrace. It was the first time I’d ever seen it happen and the crowd went silent I believe. I was deeply saddened by Joe’s untimely death and I felt he was a true, dedicated Arsenal player who should always be remembered.

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