Midfielder delighted to finally join Blues
Carl Baker so nearly became a Pompey player after being released by Coventry in September 2014.
He watched from the stands as Burton defeated Andy Awford’s side 2-0 in a televised Sunday lunchtime clash.
“I was very close to coming and saw another couple of Pompey games,” recalls the midfielder, who has just penned a two-year deal at Fratton Park.
“But for one reason or another it just didn’t happen, so it’s nice to finally get it over the line this time.”
Pompey’s loss back then was very much MK Dons’ gain, as his 10 goals and numerous assists played a key role in their promotion to the Championship.
And despite having current Premier League stars Dele Alli and Benik Afobe as team-mates, it was Baker who was named Player of the Year.
Now he finds himself two divisions lower down at Fratton Park, but the 33-year-old has no qualms about joining the Blues.
“I know it is a well-worn cliché when new players talk about Pompey being too big for League Two,” he states. “But you only have to look at the crowds and stadium to know it’s true.
“They were in their first Premier League season when I started out at Southport and when I joined Stockport in 2008, they were FA Cup holders.
“It tells you everything you need to know about the rise and fall of this club – and it is crazy.
“But I have no doubt that I am joining Pompey at a time when they have put those disappointing days behind them and are now firmly on the up.
“In my talks with Paul Cook, one of the first things he mentioned was the fans and how passionate they are.
“But I already knew that because I have been here before with Coventry and even when Pompey were on their way down, the supporters were outstanding – they made Fratton Park a tough place to visit.”
Baker and Cook are no strangers, with the midfielder kicking off his career under the Blues boss’ tutelage at non-league Southport.
“Paul is very passionate about the game,” says Baker. “He has a great knowledge and wants his teams to entertain by playing the right way.
“I obviously didn’t see a great deal of Pompey last season, but from what I’ve been told, a lot of teams came to close down and hit them on the break.
“It’s probably a natural thing to do because getting a result at Fratton Park in front of a big, passionate crowd is still a massive coup for many clubs.
“I hope I can help in breaking down those sides that come here to sit back because the onus is on us to find a way through.
“You certainly won’t find me hiding when the going gets tough. I won’t be afraid to try things on the ball in order to make things happen.
“Fans will always find me giving 110 per cent, staying positive and attempting to get them on the edge of their seats.”
Pompey have acquired an attack-minded player, who has chipped in with his fair share of goals and assists in recent years.
“I have spent a lot of time as a winger, but have lately moved into a more central role,” Baker explains. “I’m comfortable with either and like to mix it up.
“I always set myself targets at the start of the season and was disappointed to only score five last time around because I’m normally good for 10-plus.
“This campaign will be no different – I will be setting new targets and looking to attain them.
Baker skippered Coventry for two years and believes he can pass his knowledge on to some of his new team-mates.
“I loved my time as captain and will always try to help younger players,” he says. “I have a lot of experience to offer.
“But we need 11 captains out on the pitch, all taking responsibility for our performances and helping those around us.”
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