Chris Baird

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Chris Baird is a Northern Irish defender who was born in Rasharkin, Northern Ireland on 25th February 1982. Baird joined Southampton in 1998 after starting his career at Ballymena United. He made his debut on 22nd March 2003 in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, after coming off the bench in the final few minutes. After another substitute appearance at Arsenal, Baird made his first start for Gordon Strachan's side on the final day of the 2002/03 season at Manchester City. He was surprisingly named in Southampton's starting eleven for the FA Cup final with Arsenal on 11th May 2003, and was undoubtedly Saints best player on the day. That performance earned Baird a call up to the Northern Ireland national team. He won his first cap in a 2-0 defeat in Italy on 3rd June 2003.

Baird became a regular fixture in Northern Ireland squad by 2003/04. He spent the first few months of the campaign on loan at Division One outfit Walsall, and managed to get himself sent off twice. Baird returned to Saints in December 2003 and made a few cameo appearances before joining Watford on a temporary basis in March 2004. The Northern Irish full back was back at Southampton for the final game of the season at Charlton.

Despite featuring for Northern Ireland at International level, Baird failed to make a single club appearance in 2004/05. He spent the first half of 2005/06 on the sidelines as well. It was only when Harry Redknapp resigned as manager in December 2005 that Baird was finally given a chance.

In 2006/07 Baird finally started to fulfil some of the promise he had shown in the FA Cup final years earlier. By this time he was being used mainly in the centre of defence, although he was also used in his former position at right full back on occasions. Baird won over the St Marys faithful with his committed displays and never say die attitude. He missed just two games all season, and captained the side to a 6th place Championship finish. Baird scored his first goal for the club on 25th November 2006 in a 2-1 win over Luton. That was followed by two more strikes against Crystal Palace and Cardiff. He was deservedly awarded the clubs player of the season award at the end of a very consistent campaign.

On 12th July 2007 Baird signed for Fulham in a £3,250,000 deal. Fulham were managed by Lawrie Sanchez, Baird's former Northern Ireland boss. He made his debut for The Cottagers on 12th August 2007 in a 2-1 loss at Arsenal. Unfortunately, Baird made a poor start to his Fulham career, and was mocked by fans who considered him the weak link in the side. He was sent off in a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa on August 2007. Not long after Lawrie Sanchez was sacked and replaced by Roy Hodgson, Baird was dropped from the side. He barely featured at all for the club in 2008/09, and it looked like his days at Craven Cottage were numbered.

Baird was revitalised in 2009/10 under Roy Hodgson, who converted the Northern Irish man into a central midfielder following the injuries of Dickson Etuhu and Danny Murphy. He was one of the clubs unsung heroes of the season, helping Fulham to a 12th place Premiership finish. Baird also played his part in the clubs fine Europa League run, and lined up against Atletico Madrid on 12th May 2010 in the final, which Fulham lost 2-1 after extra time. Months earlier he had returned to his former position at right back, following a serious injury to John Pantsil.

Baird's fine form was rewarded on 14th September 2010 when he signed a new deal at Fulham, which kept him at the club until 2013. Just days later, his mother's home in Northern Ireland was attacked with a petrol bomb by loyalists in a sectarian attack. On the pitch, Baird continued to shine in 2010/11 for Fulham, who were now managed by Mark Hughes. He scored two long range screamers in a 2-0 win over Stoke on 28th December 2010. Baird missed the last two games of the season through suspension after flashing a V-sign at referee Lee Mason in a match with Liverpool on 9th May 2011.

Baird helped Fulham to a 9th place finish in 2011/12. He reclaimed his place in the heart of the midfield at the start of the 2012/13 campaign, following the departure of Mousa Dembele among others. Baird netted in consecutive games against Aston Villa and Reading in October 2012. He was dropped later in the season and released when his contract expired in the summer of 2013.

Baird trained with QPR at the start of the 2013/14 season, but rejected the offer of a contract, opting for Championship rivals Reading instead.