Great Harwood Legends
Paul Baker is, and always will be, a hero in the eyes of all Harwood fans.
After previously gracing the turf of both Shawbridge and the Giant Axe, Paul joined the club in1989. ‘Bakes’ made an immediate impact, scoring 17 goals in all competitions during his debut season and in doing so, topped the Showground scoring charts. The following season saw him score 27 goals and form a devastating partnership with Pete Smith, who scored 40 times. Not surprisingly the Robins won the NWCFL 2nd Division title. The club also reached the quarter final of the FA Vase, losing 2-1 at Littlehampton Town.
Bakes and co. found the step up to the 1st Division a piece of cake and a second successive promotion was won. This time they had to be content with the runners-up spot, with our legend once again leading scorer with 21 goals. January 14th 1992 was a special day as it saw Paul’s first Harwood hat-trick, in the 3-1 win at Blackpool Wren Rovers.
The following season in the Unibond League was one of consolidation, and Paul had to wait until October for his first goal. 9 more followed including another hat-trick. This ‘barren’ season made him even more determined in the following campaign and throughout August and September, opponent’s defences were smashed apart as Paul scored 11 times in the first 9 games. Another hat-trick, 23 goals, and he was once again top scorer.
The 93-94 season was one to forget as our hero didn’t score until February, but a landmark was reached on the 25th of that month when the first of his two goals in a 2-2 draw at Caernarfon, gave him his 100th goal for Great Harwood Town. He finished the season with 9 goals but in the summer, his striking partner Pete Smith left and the onus was firmly on Bakes to score the goals which would keep the club moving onwards and upwards-no problem!
19 times the ball left his boot or head and ended up in the back of the net, which was just as well, because a run of 8 successive defeats in March and April saw the Robins flirting with relegation before eventually finishing in 19th position. Needless to say he was, for the 4th time in seven seasons, leading scorer.
The team improved greatly in the 96-97 season, and 14 goals from Paul helped them into 9th place, although only one win in the last eight games saw the Robins slip out of the leading pack. The following campaign saw the end of Paul’s distinguished career with the Reds. He scored 7 goals before Christmas, his last coming on November 22nd in a 1-1 draw at Eastwood Town. His departure almost spelled disaster for The Showgrounders as just 6 wins from the final 30 games saw us drop like a stone towards the bottom of the league.
The following season the slide continued and the Robins were relegated back to the NWCFL on the final day at Congleton.
Paul meanwhile, had found a new lease of life at neighbours Darwen, and not only regularly topped their scoring charts, but also the NWCFL ones.
Away from the game, Paul lives in Blackburn with his gorgeous girlfriend Joanne and three sons, Thomas (12), Daniel (10), and Thayne (6), and spends his days working as a paint shop supervisor. He likes to ‘go out with the boys’ and hates shopping so Joanne must have the patience of a saint! He does though, like to spend time at home with his family as being involved with football means that he is out training, playing, watching etc. on a regular basis. He lists his best moments in football as all the trophy winning that went on while he was at the Showground, Lamot Trophy, NWCFL 2nd Division title, A.T.S. Trophy and Floodlit Cup.
He can’t recall any ‘worst moments’, he loved it all. His favourite ‘other’ team is Blackburn Rovers and Arsenals’ Henry is his favourite player. Mark Hughes gets his vote as best former player.
The best ground that Bakes has played on is Turf Moor (you’re supposed to say the Showground Paul!) but that’s only because he hasn’t (yet) played at Ewood Park. His over-riding memory of his time here, is when the Robins played Tamworth in a cup replay at the Showground. Paul ‘bite yer legs’ Whalley, broke the leg of Tamworth’s star player after just 5 minutes. Not surprisingly Harwood went on to win and Bakes is glad that he played WITH Mr. Whalley.
It just leaves me with the task of wishing Paul all the best for the future, both in the game and with your family, and hopefully there’ll be plenty of reminiscing in the Sportsmans after tonight’s game.
Thanks for all the happy memories Paul Baker, and we’ll always remember your trademark somersaults which you treated us to after every goal.
PAUL BAKER GREAT HARWOOD TOWN FACTFILE
YEARS AT THE SHOWGROUND – 8- 1989-1997
GOALS - 147 IN ALL COMPETITIONS
HAT-TRICKS – 3
LEADING SCORER – 4 TIMES
BEST SEASON – 1990-91 – 27 GOALS
HIGHEST FINAL POSITION – 9TH UNIBOND LEAGUE 1ST DIVISION
HONOURS – A.T.S. WINNER, A.T.S. RUNNER-UP, NWCFL 2ND DIVISION CHAMPION, NWCFL 1ST DIVISON RUNNER-UP, F.A. VASE QUARTER-FINALIST.
Great Harwood ‘legend’
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