More thrills ahead for Baker-Richardson
He once delivered washing machines and worked on a building site to pay the bills, but Courtney Baker-Richardson believes he has the right tools to build on his breakthrough season at Swansea City.
A rollercoaster ride of a career has so far seen the striker released by boyhood club Coventry City and playing non-league football in order to navigate his journey back into the professional ranks.
Snapped up by the Swans from non-league club Leamington in August 2017, Baker-Richardson is now back on track and can look back at a campaign which saw him score four goals in 21 appearances during 2018-19.
Making his Swansea City debut, scoring his first goals in the league and FA Cup – it has been a promising season on a personal note.
But his journey to this point has not been a smooth ride. Far from it.
“I had seven non-league clubs turn me down between the ages of 18-21,” he says.
“It was knock back after knock back, but my attitude is to prove people wrong. I’ve done that up until the present day.
“I found a club in Leamington that allowed me to express myself. They were a huge platform in my career, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for that.
“At non-league level I was used to clubhouses which had one shower that was trickling with water.
“If you found a patch of grass that didn’t bobble, then you were buzzing.
“But that’s the level and you must possess a lot of character in order to progress from that. You can either sulk and think you were unlucky and should be playing at a higher level, or you can work hard and believe that your chance will come.
“Luckily for me, it did.
“All the setbacks, the low moments – all those experiences helped me get to Swansea. My path has made me a better person and player.”
After a year working in the Swans’ under-23s set up, he has found himself becoming a regular in the first-team match day squad.
A strong character, Baker-Richardson points out his setbacks have made him even more determined to succeed in the game.
“It’s been a really good year for me,” reflects the 23-year-old. “I appreciate every opportunity I get because I’ve had to work really hard to get here.
“Getting released by Coventry was tough, but I’ve grown from that experience. I went into non-league and had to work a number of jobs just to keep money coming in.
“I had a few jobs. My first was as a delivery driver – I was dropping off washing machines.
“I was getting up early to arrive at the warehouse, load up and go around in a boiling hot uniform on a beautiful day. A few months before that I was a professional footballer with Coventry trying to fulfil my dream. It was a rude awakening moment.
“I was coaching some kids at a primary school. It was a few days a week for a couple of hours – I enjoyed it.
“I also did some plastering and was on a building site helping some family and friends.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to do at all, but I learned a lot from it. Those jobs, and the experience I had at non-league, helped shape me into the player and person I am today.”
Despite having made his professional debut for Coventry in an FA Cup draw at Hereford in 2013, it would take another five years before Baker-Richardson would be involved in his next pro game.
His opportunity, and Swans debut, came in the Carabao Cup defeat to Premier League side Crystal Palace,
Four days later came his senior league debut at Millwall, though, much like his earlier experiences, it proved another lesson learned as a fifth-minute dismissal meant his big moment was short-lived.
“That was meant to be such a big day for me, but it turned into a nightmare on a personal level,” he adds.
“I thought ‘oh no, you’ve blown your big chance’. But everyone was so good with me. I was told to pick myself up and go again, so I did.
“My mentality is that I have a strong belief in myself. I’m not the prettiest player, and I know that, but I offer something different in the way I play.
“I bring good energy, and if anyone tries to knock me down then I get back up with a smile on my face and try even harder.”
He did just that by making up for his Millwall mayhem with a moment that will stick with him forever – his first league goal in a 3-0 win over QPR in his next appearance.
“That was a really big moment for me, and I was glad to score to repay the faith shown in me,” said Baker-Richardson.
“My first league goal will always be special. It’s what I’ve worked so hard for in my career.
“Then to get more goals in the league and against Aston Villa in the FA Cup was a real boost.
“Looking back at this season, it has been a success for me because I’ve been involved in a lot of games and shown what I am capable of."
With his first season of senior football in the bank, Baker-Richardson now looks to continue developing at SA1.
“I am confident that I can kick on next season and play a bigger role in the team and improve myself," he adds.
"I've learned a lot from this season and that puts me in good stead for when we report back for pre-season.
"I've really enjoyed playing in front of the Jack Army this season - they have been really supportive - and hopefully we can enjoy more big moments next season."