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(Article from The Topical Times Football Book No. 1, 1959)

MY ACCENT IS SCOTS - but I play for England

By Joe Baker, Hibs

My brother Gerry and I must be the most mixed-up pair in football. Our parents were Scots. I was born in Liverpool. While I got a schoolboy cap, I am now barred from playing for Scotland, but have been capped for the England Under-23's. Gerry was born in U.S.A.- so he can only play for America.

Certainly, if it hadn't been for Gerry - he's 18 months older than I and is St Mirren's cup-winning centre-forward - I'd never have played football at all, far less alongside stars like Gordon Smith, Laurie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull, Bobby Charlton and the rest. As a youngster I couldn't have cared less about the game. Gerry, on the other hand, was never happier than when chasing a ball - or, if there wasn't a ball handy, a tin can or a lump of road metal.

We both started school at Park Street Junior School, in the Lanarkshire town of Wishaw. Gerry was such a football "natural" he was soon captain of the team. It was more or less left to him to pick the side and that put me right on the spot. I can remember pleading with him not to pick me, but he always came back with, "You'll play and like it." So I played. But I didn't like it - not to begin with anyway.

But gradually I got the fever, and soon was as keen as Gerry. Though I played in a lot of positions in those days, I always preferred centre-forward. Probably because I had somehow got the knack of being in the right spot at the right time when the ball arrived in the goalmouth. I have no idea how many goals I've scored up-to date, but I do remember topping the century one season.

That was just before I switched to St Joseph's Secondary School, also in Wishaw. I was now so keen I joined Motherwell Boys' Guild (a juvenile club) so I could play on Saturday afternoons as well as for the school in the forenoons. Playing among boys older than myself no doubt helped me get my two Scottish schools international caps-against England and Wales - as well as a bundle of local honours.

Shortly after leaving school I became a junior with Coltness United. While there I was chosen for select sides of both the Lanarkshire and East of Scotland Junior Associations. Then along came Hibs. And there I was, only 17, a full-fledged professional with the club that had had the greatest forward line since the war. I knew it was going to be tough following Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Laurie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. But I was determined not to let my sponsors down.

And what help I got from these great players. Thev . really bent over backwards to help me. That helps explain why I was in the league side after such a short apprenticeship - and was chosen to lead the England Under-23 side against Czechoslovakia and Poland last season. With my broad Lanarkshire accent I would never dream of trying to pass myself off. as an Englishman. But an Englishman I am-so far as football is concerned.


It was just through one of those quirks of fate that I happened to be born in badly-bombed Liverpool on August 17, 19401 was brought up to Scotland before I was old enough to know what went on- It was only when England's selectors chose me for the Poland game that my birth place began to hold any significance for me.

What a thrill it was to wear that England jersey for the first time. And what a treat to meet and play alongside lads like Bobby Charlton, of Manchester United. Bobby Charlton! Now, there's one of the greatest for you. I watched Bobby during a training spell practising penalty kicks. He told the 'keeper exactly where he was going to place the ball, then thumped it into the back of the net 15 times - in the exact same spot every time!

Charlton apart, I consider the best young England prospect right now is Tony Allen, Stoke City left-back. I've never seen a defender with a better positional sense. His tackling and distribution are to match.


The international games themselves gave me plenty to think about. The continentals are fine ball artistes, but they have, I consider, one big failing. When things aren't running for them, they're far too prone to take the huff with one another. As a result, their team work suffers badly.

My proudest moment Without doubt that Saturday afternoon the season before last when I scored four goals for Hibs against our city rivals, Hearts.

When I finish my apprenticeship as an engineer, I hope to become a full-time player with Hibs - I believe in a player having a trade at his fingertips - After all, you never know the moment a simple accident is going to put you out of the game-perhaps for keeps.

We can't all hope to have such a long and illustrious career as Billy W right, whom I consider the greatest footballer I have ever seen. I played against Billy when Hibs met Wolves in a floodlit game - I saw less of the ball than ever before, but I didn't mind too much. In fact, Billy's the one player I'm proud to have had a poor game against!

I like to potter about with cars and motor bikes. I'm also fond of golf, though I'm no great shakes yet at the game. Maybe I just can't take my mind off football long enough to interest myself seriously in other things.

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