JOSE BAXTER’S 12-month ban from football illustrates just what football managers have to put up with.
Best laid plans, diet, training methods, tactics, loyalty mean nothing when dealing with selfish, ungrateful and overpaid young men of the irresponsible variety.
The Bootle-born midfielder twice let Sheffield United down and the management staff who supported him big time following two separate drug related incidents. In 2009, whilst an Everton player, he was arrested on suspension of possession of cannabis with intent to supply and on suspicion of possession of counterfeit money. He was later released without charge.
Ex Blade Baxter this week received an FA ban from football for a year after failing a random test in February at United’s Shirecliffe training base. It is believed traces of cocaine were discovered. He pleaded guilty but claimed the substance had been involuntarily ingested enabling him to avoid a maximum two-year ban.
In 2015 he tested positive for ecstacy. The Blades immediately ruled him out of their League One play-off semi-final against Swindon whilst his case was dealt with. Claiming a drink had been spiked on a weekend trip with friends to watch Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, the FA gave him the benefit of the doubt and issued a five-month ban three of them suspended.
During this time former United manager’s Nigel Clough and Nigel Adkins, who went to the first hearing in support of Baxter even though he wasn’t at the club at the time of the offence, gave their full backing to the player.
The club’s ex-managing director, Mal Brannigan, provided a character reference to take to the FA hearing as Adkins lent moral support. “Nigel Clough sent me a text wishing me good luck,” said Baxter. “I won’t forget things like that.”
Weasel words from a shabby sportsman whose personal behaviour has let everyone down, not least himself. Baxter began his career at Goodison Park and was described as the ‘new Rooney’ after making his Premier League debut aged just 16. But it wasn’t long before the similarity ended.
United paid Oldham £500,000 in 2013 to sign Baxter who quickly became a favourite at the Lane. He made 121 appearances in total, scoring 28 goals. He was United's joint top scorer in 2014-15.
As irony would have it Baxter, in what was to be his last match for the Blades, a defeat at Bury on February 16, said immediately after the match: “We’ve let the fans down too often this season.”
That’s certainly true of Baxter whose lack of character and willingness to self-destruct is now threatening to bring what is left of his career to an inglorious end.
His contract was allowed to run out in June and not renewed. Once regarded as one of United’s more talented players, there will certainly be no love lost now at Bramall Lane.