IT is little wonder Southport talk about their adopted son Carl Baker with the fiercest of pride.
With footballing talent which continues to flourish, a personality which is engaging and a undeniable loyalty to the club where he made his name – Baker fills the Sandgrounders with gratification every time he takes to the field.
The 27-year-old sealed his third move since his Haig Avenue days this week when Championship side Coventry City took Baker into the highest level of his career.
Describing Baker and Southport’s four season partnership as ‘mutually beneficial’ is perhaps too cold but wherever the former Liverpool trainee goes he carries the proud Southport name with him – and celebrates his roots in the world of non-league.
Baker said: “If it wasn’t for Liam and Southport taking a chance on me and giving me that experience against physical opponents, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“I definitely keep track of how Southport are doing and when we don’t have a game I make the effort to go along to their games. I was at the game with Northwich Vics and when they beat Corby Town 4-0 at home this season – they played brilliantly that day. I still have some good mates at the club and am really close to Liam. Liam knows our chairman Ray Ranson really well and I think he put in a few good words for me.
“I speak to Liam just about every other day and there is always banter flying about between us – he likes giving me stick but I give as good as I get. Liam is like a father figure to me because he has done so much for me outside the game as well.”
Topping the list of questions levelled at any former Port star is what remains their defining memory during their spell at the club?
Every member of the 2005 Conference North winning side naturally picks the infamous win at Harrogate on the pulsating final day – and in this case Baker is no different.
And though picking the 5-2 victory is almost a given, Baker’s time with the Yellows was littered with so many cherished days he finds it difficult to pluck too many from the bunch.
Perhaps tellingly it is his continued affection for the club and its people that sparks Baker’s memory the most and he wholly appreciates that the feeling is reciprocated.
“When we went up to Harrogate to win the league was a pretty special day and I remember afterwards dancing around with our tops off” added Baker. “We needed to win and put in a really good performance that day. Another game which sticks in the mind for me is when I scored after 14 seconds in a game against Cambridge – but there were so many good times at Southport.
“I had a great relationship with the Southport fans and that is something which is really important. The fans are the ones who come to support you and if you can get them behind you, then that is half the battle. Every club I have been at, I have always got on with the fans and I always like to come back to support the club when I can even if I don’t have to.”
Few would bet against Baker’s ascent through England’s football pyramid taking him into the Premier League at some point but for now Coventry’s new acquisition is thankful for a move to the Championship.
Making his debut as a substitute in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Barnsley, Baker was a key contributor to City’s third goal – though he admitted his first appearance came sooner than expected.
Baker had to watch from the stands on Tuesday night as his new team-mates were cruelly dumped out of the FA Cup by Portsmouth.
“The boys are gutted, especially given how the game went – it was unbelievable”, said Baker.
“It was just one of them things and sometimes a cup run can be a distraction and we really just want to be pushing up the league – not that conceding in the last minute of extra-time was not a kick in the teeth.
“I love it here and the lads have taken to me brilliantly so I could not ask for anymore. From the moment I signed I just couldn’t wait to get training.
“Obviously I have got a six-year-old lad who is in school in Prescot so I don’t want to move him. I will keep my house in Prescot and just buy a little apartment down here in Lemington so will spend a few days down here and a few days back home – just mixing it up.
“The fans at Stockport were unbelievable with me, especially after my brother died. The support they gave me is not something I will forget but it has always been my dream to play at Championship level. As soon as I heard there was interest from Coventry I wanted to make the move.
“I wasn’t expecting to play on Saturday to be honest because the fax giving me the official word I was registered to play had to come through by 12 o’clock – it arrived at 11:59. But I did get on in the second half and had a major part to play in the third goal; I didn’t want the game to end and kept asking the ref how long was left because I wanted to keep playing.”
It is an enthusiasm for the game which Southport know only too well.