Charlie Baker relishing role as club captain at Shelford for London League 1N campaign
Charlie Baker will be putting 18 years of accrued knowledge of Shelford Rugby Club to good use this season.
The 29-year-old scrum-half has been with the club from the Davey Field since the age of 11, when he made the switch from Wendens Ambo mini and youth.
That devotion to the cause has now earned him one of the top playing honours, as the new club captain.
It was a tough season for all involved at Shelford last year as they suffered relegation from the London & SE Premier, and for Baker it was particularly hard as he watched too much of the campaign from the sidelines.
Injury woes were a common thread throughout the squad last year, and the No 9 did not escape the curse.
From a small ankle fracture to a dislocated thumb to a niggling knee injury, they all conspired against Baker, who was also balancing the final year of studying for a degree and work.
“It was the most frustrating thing as you want to help,” he says. “I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the club, and you’ve seen it at its best and then you’ve seen it now when it’s not quite there, so you want to do as much as you can. It’s frustrating to be on the sidelines and think ‘there’s only so much I can do’.”
Baker was put forward as a candidate to be the new club captain by previous incumbent Warrick Anderson, who was stepping down.
“I just thought it would be a good chance to still be involved even if I couldn’t do anything on the pitch at the time,” he says. “At least, I thought I could help behind the scenes.
“A lot of it is mediating between all the teams and the committee. It’s just little things like feeding back opinions and thoughts, and making sure everyone is clued up on what is going.
“It can get annoying and frustrating especially being a player, you feel in the dark sometimes, so it’s keeping everybody in the loop.
“People like Tony (Roberts, the chairman) on the committee have always been really supportive of me playing and at my first committee the other week, he said ‘Charlie is the new club captain and I don’t think he needs much introduction as most of you will have seen his face around’.
“It was nice to have that moment having put in all those years. I’m looking forward to seeing what the role does have in store.”
There appears to be a spring in the step of Shelford.
Despite their travails of last season, player-coach Mike Gillick helped create a platform to bring through the new guard at the club.
Head coach Paul Allen has arrived to take that on, along with assistant Darron Moore, and the likes of Jamie Beswick is back after a long-term injury, while Aki Lea and Scott Jackowski have returned from a season at Peterborough Lions.
There is a united feeling within the club, and Baker feels that the work Gillick did in bringing good servants of the club up to the first-team fold was a crucial aspect in that.
“We got the loyal Shelford boys down in the threes, who shouldn’t necessarily be there and should easily be up playing higher, out of the comfort zone with their mates,” says Baker.
“You look at Alex Long, for instance. The year before last, he was down in the thirds but last year got a taste of the ones and appears to be loving it now.
“He’s been at the club for years, and I think that was a positive to come out of the season – what Gil did well was bring those boys through, Sam Till was another one.”
Baker had seen it and done it all in his years at Shelford, but there is a freshness and newness that comes with the forthcoming campaign in London 1N with the enthusiasm even extending to training.
“Everyone has a smile on their faces at training,” he explains. “I’ve been at the club a fair while but come Tuesday and Thursday I’m looking forward to training, to seeing everyone and what we’re doing, back playing rugby. It’s exciting.
“I’ve always looked forward to it, but just having a new set-up keeps you on your toes a bit more.
“You haven’t got used to it yet, so with every session you wonder what we’re doing, what we’re going to focus on, what the boys have got planned and what they want to do.”
Also to look forward is the new academic year at The Perse School, where Baker is a PE and games teacher.
“The boys we’ve got, both upper sixth and the boys going into lower sixth, talking to Liam (St John, the head of rugby), he is very excited about it,” he added.
“You have a good bunch of lads with a great attitude of firstly wanting to improve and secondly having that competitive nature to want to succeed as well.”
It would seem that while Baker may have his hands full on multiple fronts, he cannot wait to get the new season under way.