Eastbourne Borough's Darren Baker targets 900th game
Baker helped Borough win promotion to the Blue Square Premier in 2008
Eastbourne defender Darren Baker says he is undecided on his future as he prepares to make his 900th appearance for the club at Southport on Saturday.
The 36-year-old has risen from the Sussex County League to the Blue Square Bet Premier in 19 years at Borough.
"You always wonder whether your days are numbered but I've managed to just keep going," Baker told BBC Sussex.
"I told myself I'd probably quit at the end of the season, but people have told me to keep playing as long as I can."
The ex-Brighton and Hove Albion scholar made his debut for Langney Sports, as Borough were then known, in an RUR Cup match at Haywards Heath in October 1992.
I'm massively proud of it but I don't ever really think about the number of games I've played
He quickly became a key member of Sports' Sussex County League side and his career blossomed when Garry Wilson became Langney manager in 1999. The club embarked on a series of promotions, with Baker at the heart of the defence, culminating in elevation to the Blue Square Premier in 2008.
During Baker's 19 seasons, Borough have gone from playing on park pitches in front of less than 100 people to taking on Luton, Grimsby, Darlington and Wrexham.
Baker says: "You appreciate the promotions more now. The pitches are fantastic, the fans' noise echoes around the grounds - it's like playing proper football, but I've had to wait 19 years for it."
Darren Baker's career landmarks
Eastbourne Borough debut October 1992
Sussex County League champions 1999/2000
500th appearance 2002/2003
Promoted to Blue Square Premier via play-offs 2007/2008
800th appearance 2008/2009
While other players have come and gone, Baker has largely remained a first-team regular, clocking up 500 appearances during his testimonial season in 2002-03 and reaching 800 in 2008-09.
"I'm massively proud of it but I don't ever really think about the number of games I've played. You've got guys like Ben Austin, Matt Smart and Matt Crabb who have all played more than 400 games and I just consider myself among those," he said.
"There's so many different players who have come in over the years, you start to think whether your days are numbered but I've managed to keep going."
Baker said he cannot understand why the team have struggled this season, with relegation to the Blue Square Bet South appearing inevitable, and admitted he has considered hanging up his boots in the summer.
He says: "The team spirit has always been fantastic so when it doesn't come off on the pitch it's incredibly frustrating. It's hard to put your finger on it, there's some great players in the team."
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