This season has been very significant for many of Villa’s academy graduates. The likes of Jack Grealish, Nathan Baker and Gary Gardner have been given their chances in a Villa shirt as the Villans strive for promotion. Grealish and Gardner have both featured heavily in our promotion push, which has had mixed success thus far. However, Nathan Baker has stood out and been immense when he has been called upon.
Coming through the academy, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Baker. As a twenty-year-old, coming into a struggling side, it wasn’t the easiest start for Baker as a first-team Aston Villa player. He joined the team as it battled for survival under Paul Lambert. A stuttering career since saw him loaned out to Bristol City last season, which was a blessing in disguise as he became acclimatised to the league Aston Villa Football Club currently finds itself in.
After a resolute performance on the opening day, Baker was perhaps unfortunate to be dropped in Villa’s subsequent match against Rotherham United. Despite this, Baker waited for his chance, which came when Tommy Elphick picked up an injury against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Since then, Baker has been calm, composed and colossal.
It is evident that Baker really wears his heart on his sleeve. Being an academy graduate, it is clear that Aston Villa Football Club means everything to Baker. He has not shied away from a single tackle. He really does put his head where it hurts. Standing at six foot and two inches, Baker rarely loses out in an aerial battle. His strength and power is perfect for the Championship, which is such a physical league. On average, he has made 5.6 clearances and 1.3 interceptions per game; he has been at the forefront of Villa’s recent upturn in form.
He has also excelled alongside James Chester. They are two different types of centre backs, who complement each other superbly. Baker is Villa’s only senior left-footed centre half and he provides the balance to the Villans’ defence. Strong in the tackle, composed on the ball and aerially dominant, Baker has been Villa’s very own man mountain at the back.
Baker has been so good that captain Tommy Elphick can no longer get into the starting XI. This is testament to Baker’s performances as he excels in a claret and blue shirt. Now twenty-five years old, Baker has waitied patiently for his chance at Aston Villa, which has finally arrived. If Baker and Chester can continue to prove solid at the back then they will provide the perfect backbone for Villa to push on in attack.
It is great to see Baker shining in an Aston Villa shirt, as he truly is one of our own.