Sheffield United: Jose Baxter offered contract by Premier League side Everton
Former Sheffield United midfielder Jose Baxter has been thrown a sensational career lifeline by his first club, Everton.
Baxter is currently serving a ban after testing positive for cocaine while a Blades player - the second time he had been found with recreational drugs in his system.
The Times have reported that once that ban expires, the 24 year old will return to Everton, for whom he became youngest player to make an appearance in August 2008, aged 16.
Baxter will link up with another former Blade, David Unsworth who is in charge of the Toffees under-23 squad. He will be given a 12 month contract to prove his worth, according to reports, which state that a verbal offer was made by deputy chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale.
"I'm speechless," Baxter told The Times. "Not many people get a second chance and here's me with a third chance."
Unsworth said: "It can be anything he wants it to be. As soon as he comes through the gates at Finch Farm in July he will be treated like an under-23 player and we work very, very hard. He will be given the same opportunities as everyone else. If that means he moves on to a Championship club or League One club later on, that will be down to Jose. We want to help because that is the sort of club we are. He is one of our own, but I have said to Jose, in no uncertain terms, that this is your last chance."
Hugely-talented Baxter joined Sheffield United in 2013 after a spell with Oldham Athletic and was brought to Bramall Lane by former Evertonian David Weir.
He was suspended for five months by the Football Association, with three of those being suspended, after failing a drugs test before the 2014/15 play-off semi-finals. Baxter's defence was that his drink was spiked while on a night out.
United were forced to discipline him again following an incident thought to have taken place at the players’ annual Christmas party and in February last year Baxter was again suspended after testing positive for cocaine which resulted in a 12 month ban. He left the club in May.