There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about players wearing the number seven shirt, especially players who play in red. Ronaldo may be a focal figure in Manchester right now, but for Exeter City Women, Phoebe Baker is our own key figure wearing the number seven.
Playing in the centre of the Grecians' midfield, Phoebe looks to set the tempo for the team and, fresh from two recent goals against Portishead, she is City’s form player right now.
Phoebe started her career with Plymouth Argyle. Impressing through the Devon FA set up, she signed for the Pilgrims aged sixteen. It was a steep learning curve, as Phoebe recalls, Argyle were playing host to many recognisable names in Women's football at the time. “Tottenham were in that league, Portsmouth, Lewes, there was some big teams and also ones which are still in that league now and competing higher.”
After a couple of seasons in South Devon, Phoebe headed to Somerset with Yeovil Town. As part of their Development team, it was more steady progress and opportunity to play big names. “We played Arsenal reserves, Chelsea reserves, it was a really good experience and one I enjoyed.”
Phoebe would soon head back to Plymouth in a move that did not work out as hoped. “It was a little bit of a mistake," she said. Surprisingly, for supporters so familiar to Phoebe's all action midfield game, her position for the Pilgrims was predominantly at left back.
“Yeah, that was my position there. I actually got through to England College trials at under sixteen playing that position. I got to the phase two round, but sadly nothing came of it. I stayed at left back at Plymouth for most of my time there.”
After the latest spell at Plymouth came to an end, Phoebe headed to Bideford, a move to regain a love for football after a frustrating time. “I had been away in to Italy in the summer and just needed to enjoy it again, get into a rhythm and get my fitness up. They were a couple of leagues below what I had been playing, but it was good social environment and everyone enjoyed their football.”
After playing against City at Speeds Meadow, Phoebe was approached to join the Grecians, and she felt it was the right timing for her career. Juggling travel with her role as a Teaching Assistant, Exeter is quickly becoming home. “I was ready to commit again, to allow football to be one of my main priorities. I live in Torrington, but the travel doesn't phase me because I am enjoying my football so much. It is a commitment but one I am happy to make.”
Whilst Phoebe's time at Exeter has been staggered with the uncertainty surrounding National COVID restrictions in football, the midfielder is now hitting her peek with regular play time. “Exeter has changed me as a player, that confidence has come back. My parents commented recently how much they noticed that confidence in my game and how much I look to be enjoying playing.”
If you are close enough to City’s Management team during a game, Phoebe's name is one you will hear often. Both Abbie and Aaron have a huge confidence in their midfield player and will be urging her to set the tempo for the Grecians. “Having the managers back me as much as they do, giving praise or constructive criticism, I like that, it helps me progress as player. Some managers don't offer as much input and it is hard to make those changes to your game that are needed, they are vocal and I appreciate it.”
Whilst Phoebe has the undoubted support of the management, she is quick to acknowledge the impact of having a good team spirit at Exeter City and the assistance that gives all the players. “A lot of confidence is helped by the girls in the team, our social and team spirit is so good. It is a really welcoming group, no one is isolated, despite the age ranges in the team, we all get on really well and socialise together often.”
With life on and off the pitch bringing confidence, ambitions for the Team at Exeter City centre around one word. “Promotion. That has to be the aim. The season has gone well so far, we have picked up a couple of good points away from home and our form is good at the minute. The Portishead performance was a benchmark for the type of quality we need to produce consistently. There is more to come from us.”
After a period of moving around Clubs in the West country, Phoebe seems to have found at home at Exeter City. Playing the best football of her career and enjoying being part of a team that are progressing. With several Player of the Match awards already obtained, including one in City’s recent St James Park success, if the Grecians do have a successful season this year, you can bet that Phoebe Baker will be at the heart of it.