Jose Baxter, the Sheffield United centre-forward, has revealed he volunteered for extra training sessions in order to command a place in Nigel Clough’s first-choice eleven, writes James Shield.
Baxter, signed by the former England international’s predecessor David Weir, is expected to spearhead United’s attack against Swindon Town this weekend after opening the scoring during Sunday’s FA Cup success over their namesakes from Cambridge.
Having initially found himself on the periphery of Clough’s squad, Baxter’s exploits at the Abbey Stadium were rewarded with a glowing endorsement from the United manager.
Describing how he propelled himself back into the League One limelight, Baxter told The Star: “I stayed behind to do more sessions, tried to get a bit more fitness and did work on my weaker foot.
“Whatever the gaffer wanted really. He’s really been keeping us on our toes.
“The training now is really intense, really aggressive and we’ve been left in no doubt you’ve got to show those qualities to get on.”
“Doing extra work really wasn’t a problem for me,” Baxter added. “Because, pure and simple, I just love football.
“It’s on the telly at home all the time and I feel privileged to be earning a living from something that I’m so passionate about.”
United were expected to challenge for promotion when Baxter, who started his career at Everton, arrived from Oldham Athletic earlier this term. Four months and a change at the helm later, they enter the meeting with Mark Cooper’s seventh placed side ranked 20th in the table.
Nevertheless, having stretched their unbeaten run to four games, Baxter said: “Swindon are a good team but we want to turn them over and keep moving forward.
“There’s a really positive feel around the club now and that’s good to see. We’re getting hard to beat with two solid banks of four and hopefully our quality will shine through.
“We’re taking things one match at a time because you can never look too far ahead but, if we perform to our potential, then we should have no one to fear.”
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s contest at Bramall Lane, Baxter added: “It breaks your heart as a player if we lose here so we’ve got to make sure that our ground isn’t an easy place for people to come.
“We’ve got to make sure our opponents have to work for everything.
“Earlier on, when we were losing games, coming back into the dressing room wasn’t nice but the atmosphere and confidence has changed as results have improved.”