I remember Wayne Rooney bursting on to the Premier League scene at sixteen years old in 2002 when he scored a superlative last-minute winning goal for Everton against Arsenal, says Matthew Bell, but I don’t recall Jose Baxter becoming Everton’s youngest ever player at the start of the 2008/09 season.
The first time his name came to my attention was a few months later when he was arrested on Merseyside on suspicion of possession of cannabis with intent to supply also and on suspicion of possessing counterfeit money before being released without charge.
Whether this situation had any bearing in his being loaned out to Tranmere, his subsequent release by Everton and Tranmere’s refusal to offer him a permanent contract I can’t say. Perhaps he was just one of those many footballers who shine brightly very early but never make the next step.
Baxter can thank Oldham Athletic for saving his career and he can also take credit himself for knuckling down and proving himself one of the most talented players in League One last season. He was often prominent on the highlights shows and played particularly well in Oldham’s 1-1 draw at the Lane.
I was delighted, therefore, when David Weir signed him, but – as Nigel Clough has pointed out – his best position is difficult to pin down. We had the same problem with a similarly talented player in Paul Shaw a few years ago – where do you play him? Clough seems to have decided that Baxter is a striker and he probably is.
Baxter has confessed an obsession with football – he says he’d watch 22 snails playing - and his willingness to train longer hours than he has to seems to be paying off. If he keeps fit and his mind on the job he has the ability and presence to lift United up the table.