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Bradford City: Every second counts, admits Baker
There is no such thing as a friendly as far as Adam Baker is concerned.
As the only one of last year’s City apprentices to be given a pro contract, the 18-year-old forward is determined to use his time wisely.
That means making the most of each opportunity on the pitch, whether it’s in Wexford during the Irish tour, Guiseley last week or at Park Avenue tonight.
“I’ve got to do all I can to impress the gaffer and try to get in the squad,” he said.
“Friendlies are like a stage. The gaffer is watching you play alongside other pros and if you handle it well maybe you might get chucked in on a Saturday.
“I’m glad he’s happy with me and trusts me. It gives you confidence hearing that but I know I’m only on the first step on the ladder.
I’ve trained with the first team before but I feel like one of them now. I know it’s only one step but it’s a step closer and I’m entitled to be thereAdam Baker
“It’s all about making those steps. First I got the contract, the next one is maybe getting on the bench and after that trying to get a start.
“It’s a big year ahead for me and this is a big pre-season.”
Baker has been on cloud nine since being told the good news in April that he was being kept on. But there were also mixed emotions for his close pals – many of whom he had known for years graduating through the Valley Parade ranks – who did not make it.
He admitted: “I’ve known a few of them for eight years and to see them go was hard.
“They ring you up and say well done for getting a contract but you can tell in their voices they are not happy themselves. All you can do is pat them on the back and encourage them to keep going.
“There are loads of options. Bradford is such a big club and if other places see they have been there then they’ll want to see what they are like.
“But for myself it’s been fantastic. As soon as the gaffer told me the news I just couldn’t stop smiling because all the hard work I’d put in for the last two years had paid off.”
Baker celebrated his first deal by scoring twice in the final reserve game of the season against Scunthorpe. A few hours later he was then on stage in the banqueting suite to accept the trophy for the club’s youth team player of the year.
It was a memorable way to finish the first chapter of his City career. But now he knows the challenge starts afresh.
He added: “It has helped playing in the reserves because you’re up against people under the age of 18 right through to pros who’ve already been in the first team.
“You get used to playing with higher-quality players – and getting absolutely clattered by big defenders!
“I’ve trained with the first team before but I feel like one of them now. I know it’s only one step but it’s a step closer and I’m entitled to be there.”
Baker has caught the eye in pre-season playing chiefly on the wing. He is comfortable in the dual role – like his all-time idol Thierry Henry.
“He’s the complete player,” Baker added. “Some of the stuff Henry can do is fantastic. His touches, his finishing and his pace – it’s all there.
“That’s the type of player I watch and try to learn from. Every time I watch a game on TV, I’ll be watching the strikers and their movement.
“Normal football fans will watch the game and say it’s a good performance but I’m just looking at what the forwards are doing.
“I watch their movement and where to be in certain situations like when you’re defending. I’m just trying to pick up little bits like that.”
Baker clearly has no time to waste.