Is it farewell to Boro’ old guard?

Darren Baker
Darren Baker

Eastbourne Borough’s longest-serving player Darren Baker admits his future is uncertain following a roller-coaster season at the club.

The defender is hovering around the 950 appearance mark but, like other stalwarts Ben Austin, Matt Smart and Matt Crabb, is awaiting talks with Borough boss Tommy Widdrington to find out if he’ll still be playing football at Priory Lane next season.

Meaning tomorrow’s game against Salisbury, if selected, could be their last.

Baker said, “I’m really not sure about next season, it’s all a bit up in the air at the moment.

“We’re all just waiting to see out the end of the season before we start making plans.

“I’ve enjoyed this season and I’ve played more than I thought I would. I feel fit enough to carry on playing and I’d like to continue playing, wherever I may be.”

Baker made his debut for Borough, or Langney Sports as they were then known, in October 1992 but concedes the 1,000 appearance milestone is probably a little too far out of reach, even if he does stay at the club.

“It may sound close but 1,000 appearances is still quite a long way off, probably just a bit too far off for me to reach.

“I’m still about 50 away and it’s unlikely I’m going to reach that within the next year or so.

“I’m still happy with over 900. Whenever you hit a milestone everyone starts tapping you on the shoulder and looking towards the next one straight away.

“I don’t really keep up with them. Normally I just find out through the lads giving me a bit of banter or stick in the dressing room.

“Sometimes I’m flicking through the programme before a game though and I’ll have a look at how many I’m on. They always seem to notch up a lot quicker than you realise.”

Looking back on this season, Baker admits Borough have fallen short of expectations.

“At the beginning of the season we thought we’d finish around the play-offs. Unfortunately, when you hit a bit of bad form it can be hard to turn around.

“When you look at the quality of the players in training, I’d say we’ve definitely underachieved this season. It’s been an unusual season though, with the change of management and so many players coming and going. It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster.”

While it may have been tough for long-serving players like Baker, Austin and Smart to accustom to Tommy Widdrington after playing under previous manager Garry Wilson for such a long time, Baker thinks change was for the best.

“They’re both very well-established managers.

“Tommy is very good at shape and tactics, I think they’re his strengths. He has a much better idea of what he wants.

“Although this season has been tough, I’d say last season was harder. We had a lot of long journeys then and suffered some heavy defeats.”

Widdrington has said he hopes to talk to all players individually between now and the presentation evening on May 4 regarding their future at the club.

Widdrington added, “It’s no secret that we want to reduce the age of the squad but no announcements will be made until I speak to all the players face to face.

“People should not read too much into who and who has not been used. We used players we thought were right for the position we were in. Next season could be an entirely different matter.”