Jose Baxter revealed his decision to join Sheffield United was based on a footballing rather than financial calculation despite seeing their lack of firepower cruelly exposed.
The former Everton and Oldham Athletic midfielder is the first player to arrive at Bramall Lane following last week’s announcement that a new
investor has agreed to bankroll the League One club. But Baxter, whose debut was wrecked by the profligate finishing which has contributed to United’s disappointing sequence of results, insisted it was the presence of manager David Weir and assistant Lee Carsley, not a multi-million pound benefactor, which sealed his move to South Yorkshire.
“For me, it’s fantastic honour to work under those two,” Baxter said. “They’re Everton legends and I know what they can bring. It’s strange because I was a ball boy at Goodison Park when they were playing together there and then I worked alongside the gaffer in the reserves.
“It’s a privilege to play for a club like this one and it’s such an extra bonus to come here with them because they are such well-respected, huge names in this business. Very knowledgeable men.
“Okay, the match didn’t work out here quite as I or anyone else at Sheffield United would have liked.
“But this is such a brilliant club that, especially with people like the gaffer here, is only going to move in one direction and that is up.”
Nevertheless, this match, against opponents still unbeaten in the competition this season, confirmed why Weir is so determined to bolster his attacking options ahead of tonight’s transfer deadline.
Febian Brandy, dismissed on the stroke of full-time for a rash challenge on MK Dons defender Lee Hodson, inexplicably shot wide with the goal at his mercy moments before Antony Kay headed home following a rare defensive lapse.
As his name suggests, Baxter’s game fuses English industry with continental creativity. A combination which has left Karl Robinson, who later admitted a draw would have been a more accurate reflection of Saturday’s events, casting envious glances in United’s direction.
“We tried to sign Jose many, many times,” Robinson, who served his coaching apprenticeship at Liverpool’s academy before taking charge of the visitors, said. “We tried to take him across Stanley Park when he was eight or nine because we could see what a talent he was but Everton were able to keep him.
“I tried to sign him when he went to Oldham and I tried to sign him six months after that and finally, most recently, when he came here.
“That’s because I know what a top, top player Jose is.
“He’ll be someone who gets the crowd here off their seats and on their feet applauding. He’ll do many brilliant things and score many, many wonder goals.”
Baxter, aged 21, was being mentioned in the same breath as Wayne Rooney when he became the youngest every player to appear for Everton five years ago.
His decision to leave Merseyside was interpreted by some as a sign of weakness. But for others, Robinson and Weir included, it was a sign of strength.
“I know what Jose sacrificed to go to Oldham because he wanted to play football,” Robinson continued. “And I know that he rejected a new professional contract with Everton because he wanted to be involved and out there on the pitch every single weekend rather than just sit on the bench.
“For me, as a manager, that shows he’s got a wonderful appetite for football. It speaks volumes about his love for the game and about his attitude.
“Jose is a terrific talent and terrific kid.”
Baxter was responsible for producing what should have been the most significant contribution of a match which seemed to be meandering towards stalemate until first Kay and then Brandy intervened.
Showcasing the power and positional sense which enabled him to score 15 goals for Athletic last term, Baxter whipped a low centre across the Dons box which, having evaded Joe Ironside, simply begged to be turned home at the far post.
Instead Brandy, whose emergence from the bench had seemingly provided United with a much-needed cutting edge, failed to hit the target.
His frustration was complete moments later when Kay beat George Long after meeting Shaun Williams’ free-kick and manifested itself in the challenge which left referee David Webb with no alternative but to produce a red card.
“Within the game we did enough to win,” Weir whose team heads to Scunthorpe in the JP Trophy tomorrow earching for its first win since the opening round of the new campaign, said. “But it’s a big, big disappointment because ultimately we didn’t.
“We put so much in, did so many things right but didn’t take those opportunities.
“It’s very disappointing because ultimately we are judged on results and when we pick up the newspapers the scoreline will tell another story.
“There’s a pain you feel when you can see it happening but we’ve got to pick ourselves up and move.
“I don’t want to be coming out here and saying the same thing every week.”
“Jose is a clever player and he played well out there,” Weir added. “As, to be fair, did quite a few other lads.
“He’ll make a difference for us going forward because of the type of person he is.
“Jose will make those runs and produce those little bits of skill that encourage others to keep doing the type of things which are eventually rewarded.
“It’s a mentality I think. Just a belief in ourselves and a belief in knowing that the things we are doing will make us successful. Because they will.”
Izale McLeod, the Dons centre-forward, was guilty of a woeful miss during the opening exchanges after ghosting past Harry Maguire but the United defender redeemed himself by charging down Patrick Bamford’s shot before the hosts grew in stature.
Baxter and Lyle Taylor, who dragged wide from an acute angle early in the second-half, showed signs of developing a profitable partnership while Ryan Flynn was controversially cautioned for diving after tangling with Dean Lewington in the Dons box.
Tony McMahon tested David Martin’s reactions after the otherwise impressive Brandy was upended by Williams but the substitute allowed emotion to get the better of him after Kay had punished that earlier miss.
“It wasn’t the scoreline that any of us wanted,” Baxter said. “But we did plenty right and everything will come together. I can see that out there.
“I want to progress my career and Sheffield United is a club where I can do that. You’ve only got to look around the place to see how much it can grow and it’s easy to understand why someone wants to put their money in because they’ll be rewarded for it.
“There’s so many good people here and so much room to grow. That’s why, even though we’re all gutted about the result, I’m still so proud to be here.
“It’s a great, great club where good things are happening. I’m sure about that.”