Hardman's Thoughts

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The Return of Jose Baxter

If you gave me a million years to think of things that could happen to Everton in this transfer window, I would never even have considered the possibility of a return for Jose Baxter.

Yet that is what is being claimed in many newspapers this morning. That the 24-year-old will, at the end of the year, receive a 12-month contract with the Blues. It’s a genuine report, as the articles contain quotes from U23 manager David Unsworth, the man behind the deal.

The deal isn’t, according to Unsworth, a first team contract – Baxter will link up with the U23s, and is free to move to a league club during or following the contract. It follows a stint where the young striker has been working with our charity, Everton in the Community. Baxter’s career highlights include becoming the youngest player to ever play for Everton, fading into obscurity with Oldham and later Sheffield United (interestingly, signed by Unsworth there too) before two drug bans have left him outsideĀ of football.

It’s fair to say that the twitter reaction to the news hasn’t been 100% positive. I’ve seen a few people following my stance, but most people are claiming that this is a bad deal for Everton. I don’t see why.

They say that he’ll hold back the development of a proper prospect, yet I doubt that’s the case. Unsworth’s U23 are doing incredibly well and we’re talking about a man who in the one game he managed with Everton’s first team started Pennington, Dowell and Davies and brought Kenny off the bench. I think it’s incredibly harsh to accuse Unsworth of potentially holding players back – after all, he’s the one actively pushing for further opportunities for his squad.

Secondly, they say it’ll block first team players getting back to fitness with the U23s (due to the quotas on the number of players over 23 allowed to play). That would be the case if there was a limit on the number allowed in the squad, rather than on matchdays. It’s simple, if we have a rare time where more than 3 over 23-year-olds are unfit, then Baxter won’t be involved. That’s a non-issue.

The benefits of those are both for the club and the player himself, admittedly mainly the latter. But what I find most amusing is that the fans who are moaning the loudest tend to be the same fans who berate clubs for not showing loyalty to fans, managers and players.

This is a fine example of loyalty. Here is a player who has become lost, returning home to regain fitness, get regular playing time and have an opportunity to decide what he wants to do with his life. Let’s be clear here: there’s no future for Baxter in Everton’s first team. I see this deal as a free pass, the perfect chance for Jose to reboot his career, or change it completely.

There are many rumors flying around, one suggests he has been studying accountancy. If that’s true, is this not then going to give him the financial support he needs to complete that and find a job elsewhere? If that doesn’t go well, this will allow him to get a more permanent contract with lower league clubs. I severely doubt Unsworth will allow him to rot in the U23s for much longer than a year.

But above all that, this deal is exactly what I want Everton to be doing. Looking after their own, helping young people who have strayed from where they should be and offering a comfortable and familiar surrounding for rehabilitation and reignition.

It was strange news to wake up to, but I see it as a positive step and I’m fairly proud of my club for doing it.