Former Everton player Jose Baxter has spoken candidly about his two spells with the Blues.
The attacking midfielder, who joined the Toffees as a six-year-old, was handed his professional debut by David Moyes in August 2008, and made 15 appearances before being released in summer 2012.
Spells at Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United followed, before a number of suspensions eventually led to a 12-month ban for failing a drugs test.
He took up Everton’s offer to rehabilitate with the club in January 2017, a return he admitted to being “really nervous” about, but he did not manage another first-team outing before leaving at the end of last season.
Speaking to the Liverpool ECHO’s Royal Blue Podcast, Baxter looked back at the time he made his Blues bow at home to Blackburn Rovers:
“I know I was going to be in the squad because in pre-season I was with them a lot. I’d scored a couple of goals and was doing alright.
“[It was] very blurry in terms of how I came on, warming up, and what did they say to me. [It was a] great experience and to do it in front of the home fans was a surreal moment.
While Baxter admitted that, on the field, spending last season with David Unsworth’s development squad was frustrating, he said he made “friends for life” in his second stint at Goodison Park.
Baxter, now 26, also said he drew on his own experiences to offer advice to the club’s current youngsters:
“It was great to look back and see the young kids doing well. Obviously I was a youngster there so to look at it from an older point of view was good.
“I had conversations with a few of the lads; I wouldn’t go and do it in front of everyone but I’d pull them aside and speak to them and try and be a mentor.
“I still keep in contact with quite a few of them to see how they’re getting on. I’m always here for a phone call.”
Reflecting on his first spell at Goodison as a whole, Baxter does not hold grudges or have many regrets, but wishes he had been given more first-team opportunities after breaking onto the first-team scene at just 16 years old.
“I felt like I was training really well and from making my debut at 16 to then playing a handful of games at 20, I think I should’ve played a bit more.
“It’s understandable when you’re at a massive club and they’re buying [Marouane] Fellaini for £15 million. These players have got to play and it was hard. I went on loan and got a taste of men’s football and got to the age where I just thought I wanted to play every week.
“Once the contract came to sign, I thought I’d rather take a step back and try and get up the way I’ve always dreamed of, playing every Saturday at three o’clock instead of sitting in the stands.”
Now back at Oldham, Baxter may meet a few familiar faces tonight when the Latics host Everton’s under-23s in the Checkatrade Trophy, and feels the League 2 side are a good fit for him:
“The first time here was brilliant; I played some of my best football and really enjoyed my time here. Once I knew they were interested second time round it was a no-brainer and it brought all the good memories back.”