Better late than never … Gerry Baker was the guest of 100 Years of Coconuts and the club on Saturday, 21 November 2015, and it was a delight to see 1960s centre half and all-round nice guy. The words below are an edited extract from the programme of that date.
Voices were raised in the pubs of King’s Lynn. Strong words were uttered in the Tuesday Market Place. Anger and incomprehension were expressed in forthright terms on the quayside. What the dickens, red-faced townspeople demanded to know, was the football club thinking?
Faced with the possibility of a mob armed with flaming torches and pitchforks marching on The Walks, the Linnets’ directors took the unusual but sensible step of calling a public meeting to explain themselves. There was just one item on the agenda: why did King’s Lynn FC transfer Gerry Baker to Cambridge United on 16 October 1965?
The full-back-turned-centre-half was so popular around Lynn that supporters evidently had to pinch themselves when news of the transfer broke. The man himself took a phlegmatic view of the state of shock reigning in north Norfolk. ‘To me this shows that I did my job at Lynn,’ he told the Cambridge Evening News calmly.
‘The fellow who really won United the Southern League was big centre back Gerry Baker,’ he wrote in his memoirs. ‘In the last ten games or so he was fantastic. He propped us up match after match and never put a foot wrong. We were struggling to win those matches, but the big fellow saw us through and I think they should have struck a special medal just for him!’
Born in South Hendley, West Yorkshire on 22 April 1939, Gerry began his football career on the Sheffield Wednesday ground staff, moving to Bradford Park Avenue in 1955 and turning professional two years later. He played in 16 Football League games before joining King’s Lynn in 1961, where he was made captain. He made the move from full back to centre half at the start of the 1964/65 season.
Roy Kirk was the United manager who provoked such puzzlement in King’s Lynn. Gerry was immediately appointed captain at the Abbey and formed a formidable centre-half combination with Jackie Scurr as Kirk experimented with a 4-2-4 formation. In the 1966/67 season, now under Bill Leivers’ management, he played in a club record 73 matches in the Southern League, the Eastern Professional Floodlit League and various cups.
Leivers felt his team should have won the league in 1967/68 (they finished third) but praised the progress of his players, especially ‘the transformation in the play of Gerry Baker’. The supporters agreed and made him their player of the year.
New signing Terry Eades began to ease Gerry out of the side and in October 1969 he was sold to Cambridge City. He captained the Lilywhites to promotion to the Southern League Premier in 1970 and the runners-up position the following season, before moving to Stevenage. Thereafter he took up the managerial reins at Great Shelford – where he still lives – and was instrumental in the club’s Cambs Invitation Cup win in 1980/81 and its 70s-to-90s domination of the Cambs League.
It's good to have you back, Gerry.