FOOTBALL: STAR striker Courtney Baker-Richardson has returned to the professional ranks to join Premier League side Swansea, signing a two-year deal with the Welsh club.
The former Leamington forward, who made 74 appearances for Brakes and scored 26 goals, effectively bagged Paul Holleran’s side promotion to the second tier of non-league football with his dramatic extra time strike in last season’s playoff final against Hitchin Town.
After spending two days with former Premier League champions Leicester City – who also offered him a deal – Baker-Richardson opted to move to Wales to further develop his career.
And he left Leamington with a glowing reference, praising the fans, club, and manager as he prepared to make the switch.
“My time at Leamington has gone better than expected,” said Baker-Richardson.
“I came here with ambition and drive, I just needed the gaffer to take full faith in me.
“To begin with it was a bit rocky, but we got there in the end. Last season I excelled and just kept on going.
“I didn’t really want to play on the right wing but for the sake of the team sometimes you’ve just got to dig in and do your job.
“Leamington has definitely pushed my career on from where it was prior to coming here.”
The former Coventry City academy member made his Swansea debut on Tuesday night in the Under 21s Checkatrade Trophy clash against Cheltenham.
Baker-Richardson came on as a second half substitute and provided a crucial assist on 73 minutes as Swansea came from behind to win 2-1.
The youngster hopes his time at Swansea City can further develop his career with an eye on a first team spot in the future.
He said: “I’ve signed a two year deal with Swansea but with a high potential of first team football.
“If I am scoring goals and performing they won’t be going for loan deals if they need players. They will look to push the likes of myself through from the Academy.”
The playoff final hero will stick to his roots though and confirmed he’s now a Brakes fan.
“Everything about the club, from the backroom, right through, is class. Any Saturdays I get off I’ll be coming to watch Leamington,” Baker-Richardson said.
While manager Paul Holleran was disappointed to be losing one of his star players, he was pleased to see Courtney step up to the professional game.
He said: “If players get into full time football or get attached to Premier League football clubs then it’s good for Leamington.
“We’re sorry to see Courtney go, but it’s a great opportunity for him and we hope he does really well.
“As much as it’s disappointing with the timing of it, the kid is 21. He’s done ever so well for us in his time here, and that’s part and parcel of what happens.
“He’s been great to work with, put some massive performances in and scored some very important goals.
“I always say to supporters sometimes, enjoy watching some of these kids, because we’ve got another two or three young players who I think will go on to do well in the game.”
Picture: Tim Nunan.