AT 18 attacking midfielder James Baxendale is the youngest of Doncaster Rovers’ summer signings.
The Doncaster-born player, who kicked-off his football career playing for Moorends Hornets the Doncaster & District Boys’ League, was snapped up by the South Yorkshire club within hours of becoming a free agent,
A striker in those days, the youngster was spotted by scouts from Leeds United - then a Premiership club - and joined their Football Academy.
He had been there for nearly a decade prior to being released by the West Yorkshire club, who converted him to a midfielder a couple of years ago, at the end of last season.
He wasn’t down in the dumps for long, however, as Rovers offered him a deal the following day.
“It’s better here with it being my hometown club than Leeds,” he said. “ I absolutely love it.”
Baxendale was a Rovers’ fan prior to joining the club.
“I used to watch them all the time when I was younger,” he said. “Members of my family were season ticket holders so when I wasn’t playing for the juniors at Leeds I used to go and sit with them.
“I came to about six games last season and that helped me settle in quickly because I’d seen what the players could do and I knew who they were.”
Baxendale made his debut in Rovers’ colours in the club’s opening pre-season friendly at Armthorpe - during which he caught the eye in a 45-minute stint - and appeared regularly throughout the warm-up campaign. He scored a superb goal in the 3-0 win at Grimsby last Friday.
Leeds check in at the Keepmoat in October and Baxendale says that he would love to be involved on the night and adds: “Not just the Leeds game but I’d love to be involved in any game this season.”
“I know it won’t be easy because there are a lot of good players here. I’ve just got to work hard and see how things go.”
Baxendale has joined the club on a 12 month contract but is confident that he will win a longer term deal.
“I’ve got to work hard and try and improve and impress the gaffer,” he said.
“Rovers have a good reputation for bringing players through and I really hope to develop here.”
“Obviously there are things that I need to work on. I need to get bigger physically and work on my awareness of the tempo of the game.
“It is a massive jump from the level I was playing at Leeds to the Championship but I can only get better with training with the boys every day.
“I like the sort of football they play. Football should be played on the floor. I could still play striker and have an eye for goal.”