Jose a vital cog in Latics wheel
Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date online: 22 August 2013
THERE is no question that Jose Baxter’s manager has full belief in his talent.
Words like “maverick” and “genius” aren’t thrown around willy-nilly by a man who crafts his phrases as carefully as Lee Johnson does.
Yet those are the descriptions he chose for the playmaker-striker in the post-match press conference at Peterborough.
Since taking over, Athletic’s manager has started with Baxter — the polar opposite of Johnson’s former rock-steady midfield playing style — every time he has been fit.
The nuts and bolts of Baxter’s record suggest why: his goals against Hartlepool, in Johnson’s first game, and Colchester last term were vital. So were assists against Pools (two), and Crawley.
Without them, relegation to League Two could well have followed.
This season, Baxter’s two strikes against Stevenage helped Athletic to three points on the opening day.
With the transfer window open until early September, speculation is hanging about a buy-out clause that could see Baxter join Paul Dickov at Doncaster in the Championship.
Partly because he is a non-driver — dad Andy ferries him to games — and partly because it wouldn’t be seen as too much of a step up in profile, a Dons departure doesn’t seem likely. Athletic have had no bids from any club.
Johnson hopes it stays that way. He has again invested faith in Baxter’s ability, this time to steer the team towards the top of the table rather than clear of the bottom.
The signs are that in the last two-and-a-half matches, Baxter has dipped below his usual high standards.
Derby successfully snuffled him out after a superb opening half in the Capital One Cup tie; Walsall’s packed midfield made it impossible for him to get the room needed to be a creative force; and at Peterborough, for all of Athletic’s good work, Baxter was off his game.
But all the evidence is that Baxter — niggled by a groin strain in the build-up to Peterborough — will come good again.
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