Jose Baxter retires at 29

Monday, 9 August, 2021 19comments  |  Jump to last

The chequered football career of Everton Acadamey protégé Jose Baxter has finally come to end with the former Everton, Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic and Memphis 901 midfielder announcing his retirement at the age of 29.

The boyhood Liverpool fan made his Premier League debut under David Moyes in Everton's opening-day defeat by Blackburn Rovers in 2008 when he was aged 16 years and 191 days.

But Baxter's Everton career would stall under Moyes, who used him only very rarely over the four seasons he spent in or around the first-team squad. He would make only two senior starts in an Everton shirt.

He joined Oldham Athletic and later Sheffield United but was suspended from football after failing a drugs test in 2015.

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The munificence of Bill Kenwright's wistful romanticism came to the fore in granting the midfielder a generous 1-year contract with the Toffees in January 2017 as he struggled to rehabilitate himself in the game after losing more than a year at a critical time in his career. He played a few times for David Unsworth's Under-23s before he later rejoined Oldham, then having a spell at Plymouth in 2019 making, 12 appearances.

In February 2020, Baxter signed for his final club, American side Memphis 901 FC, a member of the second-tier USL Championship run by former Everton goalkeeper, Tom Howard.


Reader Comments (19)

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Will Mabon
1 Posted 09/08/2021 at 14:51:20
A shame and a waste. Guess too much damage was done early on to pull it around, if he can't find a home at any pro' level aged 29. Hope the drug troubles don't haunt him further.
Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
2 Posted 09/08/2021 at 15:24:53
Typical BPB giving a contract.

Why does this guy have compassion?
It is the disgrace of this club the way we look after people.

Just taking my tongue out of my cheek now.

I was there for his debut, 10 mins as a sub, nearly scored to make it 3-2, looked so exciting and then Blackburn scored in the 90th minute.

Brent Stephens
3 Posted 09/08/2021 at 16:00:08
Well played, Phil. Compassion too often in short supply.
John Raftery
4 Posted 09/08/2021 at 16:23:49
Undoubtedly Jose had the ability to be another Leon Osman. Regrettably he seemed to lack the hunger and dedication to reach the top. I remember him having a decent debut against Blackburn but appearing out of his depth the following week at West Brom.

After that the only time I remember him showing any potential was in the 1-0 win against AEK in Athens. On a rainy night he displayed neat control and used the ball well. Another nearly man, one of many over the decades.

John Crook
5 Posted 09/08/2021 at 16:27:57
'Retire' at 29? How the other half live!
Benjamin Dyke
6 Posted 09/08/2021 at 17:19:06
John you do realise he's retiring from professional sport so he can now make a living doing something else?
James Flynn
7 Posted 09/08/2021 at 17:35:55
Reading about Dobbins latest hat-trick last week, saw that Baxter was in the staff. He's been taking his coaching badges.
Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 09/08/2021 at 17:59:43
Probably for many reasons, but a warning against the clamour to have these kids playing before their time.

Physically and mentally, many of them end up on the football scrap heap too early because too much is demanded and expected too soon. Rooney included. How can a talent like that be done by 32? Michael Owen likewise. Even Gerrard, still only 33 bordering on 34 when his legs went against Chelsea in the "slippy" moment. Too much too young as the Specials song goes.

Sorry, I just feel passionately about this. Gone are the days we used to nurture players and not expect them to hit the ground until they were about 22 or 23.

Now we expect 16 year old boys to be fully grown men. I challenge any of you to truthfully tell me you stood on a football pitch between the ages of 16 - 20 and competed as men regularly.

By my equation, that's 6 years too early. So you can knock that off the back end of their career after we've run them into the ground.

We ruin players in this country by expecting to much too early. We don't think of development and we don't think of long term effects. As long as we get a year or two out of having a "young hungry player". But that is not thinking about the player or his career. Or the impact the player could have if managed correctly.

Once again, sorry. I do feel strongly about this.

John Raftery
9 Posted 09/08/2021 at 20:50:06
Danny (8) You are right. With very few exceptions young players need to be eased into the professional game. I was reading over the weekend that James McCarthy played over 100 league games before he left Hamilton aged 18. Is it a coincidence that by his mid twenties he was suffering recurring injury problems? I suspect not.
Mike Gaynes
10 Posted 10/08/2021 at 00:59:51
Here's a wonderful article on Baxter from the Memphis newspaper about a year ago, after Tim Howard brought him over and signed him (Tim owns the minor-league club).

It seems that what Michael sneeringly calls "The munificence of Bill Kenwright's wistful romanticism" had exactly the hoped-for effect. The article describes Baxter as putting his drug problems well behind him and being open about his mental health issues. He captained Memphis 901 a couple of games last fall, but has not played at all this season.

Jose Baxter details route from young Premier League prospect to vet in USL

I hope for his and his family's sake -- he has a three-year-old daughter -- this midseason retirement is driven by injuries or performance and not a recurrence of his previous issues.

Justin Doone
11 Posted 10/08/2021 at 07:14:41
Its goods to remember, he had potential but that's all potential is, a decent chance.

The rest is up to the individual and sadly our youth team, like the majority, isn't producing much more than potential.

I think this is an overlooked area. Can more be done to help the development, the dedication and hardware working needed to breakthrough. Would engaging with club psychologists from a young age help?

Just a thought.

Michael Kenrick
12 Posted 10/08/2021 at 11:17:33
With so many threads on here beating the drum on the manifest failure of Everton Academy to produce anything of worth (ignoring Tom Davies, discounting Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and playing down the long list of Academy players who still have a career elsewhere in football), you have to wonder how instructive it is to look now in full retrospect at a case like Jose Baxter.

Each player is unique, but we don't know how much the development process can be tuned to the needs of the individual. He was given seemingly only a handful of games to impress at Everton, over a 4-year period, but he didn't. Well, not according to the stats at least, although they did see enough to give him another 2-year contract in 2010 when perhaps they should have cut him lose.

But was his failure to impress down to his own limitations, the harsh judgements of a particularly parsimonious first-team manager, or the failure of entrenched coaching methods in the U21s/U23s? Take your pick. Every article about him now talks of mental health issues, which as we've seen can be devastating to top sports people.

I prefer to believe Baxter was given every opportunity, and then some. But addictive personality traits and a weakness for instant gratification when it's so easy to get... Perhaps it's too simplistic to apply the American adage and just "Say No to Drugs" – when the reality is that's not quite so easy to implement in practice with real people who see those drugs as a solution to their percieved problems.

But Yes, knowing what a failure Baxter was, knowing how he'd been in trouble with drugs numerous times, they wanted to give him a chance when he was at his lowest. First with EitC, and then as an over-age member of the Under-23s.

Extremely generous, I would say. Certainly not something a cut-and-thrust Premier League club wanting to be at the very top would be drawn into... But what am I saying? This was Kenwright's 'Plucky Little Everton, renowned the world over for its charity work... off and on the field, unfortunately.

You say it had exactly the hoped-for effect, Mike, but to me it seems the pattern of his career was merely enabled to continue pretty much as it had before. He goes somewhere for a year, plays in a few games (very very rarely for the full 90 minutes, and often only as a sub) but misses out on a lot more, and then, for whatever reason, moves on to whoever else will take him.

“However, my own stupid decisions got in the way, and returning to the game three years later at the age of 21 with my body never being the same was always an uphill battle." Judging from that, the damage was done in the time when he was suspended, so I'm not convinced Everton's generosity really paid off.

After Memphis 901, he drew a line under the playing side of his football career. But appears to have snuck back under the fence at Finch Farm where he will now get his coaching badges. He'd better be an exceptional coach... or are we again being the nice soft touch and enabling crutch for a serial failure?

Robert Tressell
13 Posted 10/08/2021 at 11:31:28
As you say Michael, each case is different.

I think a big problem with the academy has been a lack of any structured route into the first team. In the years after his debut, Baxter just didn't get enough games to develop and went off the boil. We couldn't risk him in the first team because he made mistakes (albeit so did senior players at that time).

Maybe a loan somewhere offering space to grow and technical football may have helped – like the Eredivisie. Maybe a move like that would have been too much for a teenage Jose (albeit we seem to expect South Americans and Africans and others to cope just fine when coming here).

But ultimately some very talented kids don't make it – like John Bostock and Ravel Morrison. It's not just us.

The structure now in place and the volume of very talented kids playing U18s at 15 / 16 and U23s at 17 / 18 and then 19 / 20 on loan seems a better way to keep kids developing and stopping them stagnating, getting bored and losing interest in football (and gaining interest in drugs, booze and other dangerous distractions).

Jim Lloyd
14 Posted 10/08/2021 at 11:44:03
I don't think it's a problem with the academy in this case. I think that he had/has great skill and vision. A young man, plenty of money and drugs. What a waste of talent. I think that Everton could be accused of being soft; but I think they help their own as best as they can, good on our club.
Michael Kenrick
15 Posted 10/08/2021 at 14:42:42

That structured route into the first team:

"They need to stand out at Under-23 level to then be able to stand out to the new manager and his staff.

“Then, it’s about impressing when they get the opportunity to train with the first team, which a couple of them have done already.”

Not structured enough? I've always believed "if they're good enough". Some don't seem to be given enough games to really prove themselves, but you could argue that they really need to show what they've got when given the chance.

Of course we judge them on what they do when they get to the first team. The coaches judge them on what they see every day, which builds up to them getting that opportunity. But then our coaches just aren't good enough anyway, so we are told...

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 10/08/2021 at 15:12:22
I do think the coaching is a problem Michael, but as you know, I don't think that is necessarily an Everton problem. I've long said it starts before that and with the system and coaching that feeds the academies. We get served the product of our grass roots bar the odd gem.

And then to the academies. Without making excuses for the lad, his own words struck a cord with me of the problem with the system. Forget my previous about thrusting 16-year-olds into the professional game too soon; that is one of the problems for me.

But without going back to the link, he was in the Everton Academy from 8 years old? Now many would see that as a life opportunity. But he was in a "bubble" (his words) from such a young age with a lot of expectation placed on him. He had no normal life, he was separated from normal life. I think that is such a problem, that needs to be addressed.

Then, when they are 17 or 18, having been excluded from a normal life, when they finish training at 2 pm (or whenever), they are expected not to do the things a normal 18-year-old would do. The boredom creeps in. Look how a younger Jack Grealish was villanised (excuse the pun) for doing what 18-year-olds do.

We often slate the modern footballer, but we should also take into account they make a lot of sacrifices and are denied a lot of natural "growing up" life experiences that many of us take for granted.

Just a view. I know many are not very sympathetic to modern footballers. But more so than ever, they live life in a media goldfish bowl.

Andrew Keatley
17 Posted 10/08/2021 at 15:15:21
The 16-year-old José Baxter had very good feet, tremendous vision, and an excellent understanding of space on a football pitch (which often allowed him to have time on the ball) – but he was no athlete.

As he graduated from the academy into the first-team squad, it seemed evident to me that he was going to face the sort of uphill battle to the first team that Leon Osman faced a decade or so earlier. While Osman clearly had the patience, determination and dedication to ride the waves of various loans, Baxter was not so well equipped, and always looked a stone overweight and unconditioned.

It's always a shame to see a top prospect fade into obscurity, but, even if he had applied himself perfectly and stayed on the straight and narrow, then I'm still not sure he would have got that close to the very top of the game. Ravel Morrison, on the other hand, he could have been one of the best this country ever produced; there's the tragedy.

Andy Crooks
18 Posted 10/08/2021 at 18:47:42
Michael @12, you put forward a few reasons why it didn't work out for Jose. I think it is likely a mixture of all of them. I've mentioned on other threads how fine the margins are in achieving success. They are equally fine in reverse.

We sometimes describe players or indeed people as, limited, unambitious, lazy, troubled. None of this is necessarily permanent. An arm around the shoulder on the right day might change a lot. As indeed might a kick up the arse!

Often it is just bad luck. I say give anyone a chance and I admire our club for doing so. Of course, it doesn't mean that we settle for second best. Chances given must be taken.

Nicholas Ryan
19 Posted 11/08/2021 at 01:17:17
On the question of young players maybe starting too early; I immediately thought of Man City/Everton/England full back, Paul Power.
Power only signed his first contract with City when he was 22/23, by which time he had completed a law degree and qualified as a solicitor!
He went on to win the League with Everton in 86/87. He always seemed calm, unflustered and mature; could that be because he started so [relatively] late?

Secondly, regarding the requirements for top level sport. My daughter is a good tennis player, who has a professional coach. He said, that to reach the top in Tennis, you need - a good technique, serious athleticism and an iron will... He continued: "We can teach the technique, but we can't teach athleticism and we can't teach willpower. you either have them or you don't".

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